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State of Washington Natural Heritage Plan

The State of Washington Natural Heritage Plan establishes a list of priority species and ecosystems for inclusion within the statewide system of natural areas, which includes various natural area designations employed by state and federal agencies and private, non-profit organizations. The Natural Heritage Plan does not directly identify priority places for conservation. Various local, state, and federal agencies use the priorities assigned to species and ecosystems to guide conservation actions and land-use decision-making.

Selection of candidate sites is driven by the presence of priority ecosystems and species. The process of setting these priorities is also described in in the plan. Current lists of priority species and ecosystems are available on the Natural Heritage Program’s website.
In addition to the lists of priority species and ecosystems and the documentation regarding criteria and process for selecting natural areas, the Natural Heritage Plan identifies the contributions to the statewide system of natural areas that are made by federal, state and local agencies as well as private conservation organizations.

Going Beyond Natural Areas
The statewide system of natural areas is critical to the long-term persistence of our unique natural heritage. But the overall conservation need is much greater than can be provided by simply acquiring and designating sites as natural areas. Use of the full set of conservation tools, from acquisition to easements to good stewardship, is required. And behind the application of all conservation tools or mechanisms is a need for objective information and sound science.

The Natural Heritage Program has been compiling, analyzing and sharing objective information about Washington’s biodiversity for 30 years. The information has been used in a number of ways to help achieve conservation. But we believe that we can, and must, do a better job of making biodiversity information available if we are to be successful at ensuring the long-term persistence of our rich natural heritage. 

The Washington Biodiversity Council, established by a Governor’s Executive Order, is currently looking 30 years into the future, developing a strategy for the conservation of Washington’s biodiversity. The implementation of the strategy will require objective, comprehensive information. We believe that the Natural Heritage Program has a critical role to play in that effort. To that end, the 2007 State of Washington Natural Heritage Plan has been prepared with an eye toward making the information that we manage both more accessible and understandable. We hope to encourage all who are engaged in land-use planning and decision-making, from developers to conservation activists, to make use of the best available information and expertise, including that which is available from the Natural Heritage Program.

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