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Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) provides current, reliable, objective, accessible information on Pennsylvania’s ecological resources to help inform environmental, economic, and land use decisions.

Introduction

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) provides scientific information, expertise, and assistance to support the conservation of biological diversity. PNHP tracks the occurrence and location of native plant, animal, natural community and geologic resources, with a focus on rare and endangered species. Much of this information is posted at PNHP’s website, http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us.

PNHP information can be used to guide conservation work, land-use planning and land development, ensuring the maximum conservation benefit with the minimum cost.

Partnership staff conduct inventories and collect data which is stored in an integrated data management system consisting of a computer database, digital map data, and paper files.

PNHP fulfills a unique role in Pennsylvania and is recognized for its high quality scientific work, staff expertise and commitment.

PNHP Components

PNHP is the umbrella for a number of data collection/classification projects and resource management tools:

County Natural Heritage Inventories 

County Natural Heritage Inventories are inventories of species, natural communities, and unique geological features conducted at the county level by PNHP scientists. The inventories identify, map and discuss important places within a county, prioritize them based upon their attributes, and provide recommendations regarding their management and protection.

County inventories are designed to inform county and municipal residents about their living heritage and give them a tool to use in planning the future of their communities. County and municipal planners, federal, state and local agencies, businesses, environmental consultants, developers, local conservation organizations and many other individuals and groups use these studies to help make land-use decisions within their counties.

Inventories are completed or ongoing in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Reports for completed inventories are available via the PNHP website.

Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) Environmental Review and Project Planning Tool

The PNDI Project Planning and Environmental Review tool is a web-based application that determines if user-submitted projects have the potential to adversely affect known occurrences of species or natural communities of concern.  Public agencies, private agencies, and individuals submit their projects using a web-based application that is accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

The user-friendly interface enables the public to perform online searches for potential impacts from development of various kinds to special concern species and resources in Pennsylvania. Click on “PNDI Project Planning Environmental Review” in the bottom left corner of www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us. Follow this link to access the ER Tool, obtain step-by-step instructions on using the ER Tool, FAQ’s and to access the PNDI Form.

Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania

This is a publication classifying and describing the natural communities occurring in the state.  This publication is available on the PNHP website.

Aquatic Community Classification Project

The goal of the Aquatic Community Classification (ACC) project is to describe communities of freshwater mussels, macroinvertebrates and fish that live in the over 83,000 miles of Pennsylvania's streams and rivers. The ACC describes the species or taxa that comprise the communities, the stream types and habitats they are found in, and the conservation implications of each. Also included are descriptions of the physical stream types found in Pennsylvania and lists of GIS-derived reference-quality streams. Areas determined to be priorities for conservation or restoration were selected as well.

Comprehensive List of Pennsylvania Species

PNHP is in the process of compiling a peer-reviewed list of taxa known to occur in Pennsylvania. Lists for vascular plants and numerous animal groups are currently available at the PNHP website.

Species Fact Sheets

The PNHP website contains more than 100 fact sheets providing in-depth information on the natural history, habitat preference, distribution, and conservation status of plant and animal species of concern. New sheets are added as they are developed. Select fact sheets are included in the County Natural Heritage Inventory reports.

Pennsylvania Seasonal Pools Registry

The Pennsylvania Seasonal Pools Registry is a citizen-based program to document locations of seasonal pools.  The Registry relies on volunteer participants to submit information about where seasonal pools are located and what plants and animals are using the pools.

The registry is an important step toward understanding Pennsylvania's ephemeral wetland habitats. The information will be available to researchers who study seasonal pools, and to landowners and agencies that manage these often-overlooked wetlands. Anyone who is interested in seasonal pools is welcome to participate. 

The registry is located at the  PNHP website, http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us.  The website provides information on how to find seasonal pools, identify the animals you may encounter, and register the pool once you have confirmed that it is seasonal rather than permanent in nature.

PNHP Operations

PNHP Partners

PNHP is a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service participates in the PNHP within its role as jurisdictional agency for federally listed species.

DCNR houses the PNHP database and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy enters and manages the records within the database with consultation from the three jurisdictional partners described previously..

As a result of the four-way partnership, PNHP is the largest heritage program in the United States and offers a broad knowledge base. With multiple partners, dispersed operations and regulatory responsibilities for species split among three state agencies and a federal agency, the program is complex.

Miscellaneous

NatureServe

PNHP is a member of NatureServe, an international network of natural heritage programs that gather and provide information on the location and status of important ecological resources.

Public Feedback on the PNDI Environmental Review Tool

There is a webpage for specific feedback on the PNDI Environmental Review Tool at http://www.gis.dcnr.state.pa.us/hgis-er/feedback.aspx

Restrictions on Data to Protect Sensitive Species

Certain information, such as the location of sensitive threatened and endangered species, is not released to the public.  

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Experts

Western PA Conservancy
717-532-2427
Small Mammal Surveys
Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program
412-586-2326
Serves as the planning coordinator for PNHP. Please contact for more information.

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The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) provides current, reliable, objective, accessible information on Pennsylvania’s ecological resources to help inform environmental, economic, and land use decisions.
This website provides information on how to find seasonal pools, identify the animals you may encounter, and register the pool once you have confirmed that it is seasonal rather than permanent in nature.
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Acknowledgements

Sally Just of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources authored the first draft of this tool, and Jeffrey Wagner of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy reviewed it.

Disclaimer

Nothing contained in this or any other document available at ConservationTools.org is intended to be relied upon as legal advice. The authors disclaim any attorney-client relationship with anyone to whom this document is furnished. Nothing contained in this document is intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any person any transaction or matter addressed in this document.
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