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Natural Heritage Program

The mission of the Nebraska Natural Heritage Program is to develop, manage and distribute scientific information critical to the conservation of Nebraska’s biological diversity. We are the only comprehensive source of information on the status and location of Nebraska’s rarest and most threatened species and natural communities. We share information with a wide variety of partners and stakeholders to ensure that Nebraska’s native flora and fauna are conserved. Data and information from the Heritage Program was an integral part of the development of the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project.

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program tracks more than 800 species and natural communities, focusing on those that are most at-risk of extinction or decline. The Program is a contributing member of NatureServe, a network connecting science with conservation, consisting of natural heritage programs found across the United States, Canada, and Latin America. The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program has been providing scientific information to inform conservation and land use decisions in Nebraska since 1987. Information collected and maintained by the Program aids in the conservation of Nebraska’s biological diversity in a number of ways.
Learn more

Heritage program resources

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program, internally and through collaboration with partners, produces a variety of products for use in the conservation of Nebraska’s natural heritage. Use the links below or contact Rachel Simpson for more information.

Range maps for natural communities

View range maps for natural communities in Terrestrial Ecological Systems and Natural Communities of Nebraska by Steven B. Rolfsmeier and Gerry Steinauer.
Download plant community descriptions
Download plant community range maps

Request data

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program provides data on rare and at-risk species and natural communities. Heritage staff works to keep the database updated to provide partners and clients with the most up-to-date data possible. The database does not, however, represent a comprehensive inventory of all at-risk species in the state and should not be used to replace on-site surveys. Field verification by a qualified biologist at the appropriate time of year is necessary to detect all species of concern actually present in an area. Please keep in mind that our database is only as robust as the data we receive. We encourage you to help us maintain the quality of our database.

Data formats

Data are available in a variety of formats, including simple Excel spreadsheets and GIS shapefiles, in varying degrees of detail, and for areas ranging in size. Fees are charged to cover staff time in responding to such requests. Fees may be waived for non-profit organizations and educational institutions. We strive to answer all data requests within 2 weeks, although complex data requests and current workloads occasionally cause longer response times. Data requests may be subject to a data license agreement. Contact Rachel Simpson to make a data request. Providing a GIS shapefile of the area of interest will expedite the request.

Nebraska Conservation and Environmental Review Tool (CERT)

The Nebraska Conservation and Environmental Review Tool is an ArcGIS Server based interactive mapping application that anyone can use to map the conservation status and conservation values of lands.

Site offers:

        • Map layers including Natural Heritage information, CHAT data, conservation lands, geographic and political boundaries
        • Basemap options including aerial photography, streets, topographic maps
        • An array of map navigation tools and search functions to support viewing and analysis

All users can:

        • Import data to the viewer via shapefiles or published map services
        • Make custom maps for printing or sharing

Registered users can also:

        • Identify areas for potential conservation projects and receive reports detailing features in the area.
        • Submit proposed projects for environmental review and receive results back as a report with results of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) review.

Visit the CERT home page to create an account or log-in

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CHAT (Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool)

As part of a west-wide effort led by the Western Governors’ Association and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has synthesized information related to habitat for at-risk native species and natural plant communities. The result is coarse-scale, landscape-level information that can be used by anyone for land-use planning. The product of this west-wide collaboration is called the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT). The information, provided through an online GIS-mapping tool, is non-regulatory and gives project planners and the general public access to credible scientific data on a broad scale for use in project analysis, siting, and planning.

The CHAT (Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool):

        • Is intended to support a broad spectrum of users from planners, to private landowners, to policy makers.
        • Aims to bring greater certainty and predictability to planning efforts.
        • Is designed to reduce conflicts and surprises during the planning process.
        • Helps to ensure wildlife values are better incorporated into land use decision-making.
        • Supports cross-state assessments for large-scale conservation projects.

Download comprehensive CHAT document
Visit CHAT website


Program staff

Rick Schneider
Program Manager/Ecologist
402-471-5569

Mike Fritz
Zoologist
402-471-5419

Rachel Simpson
Data Manager/GIS Specialist
402-471-5427

Gerry Steinauer
Botanist/Ecologist
402-694-2498