Natural Heritage Program Projects

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program collects information on the status, distribution and ecology of natural communities and rare, threatened and endangered species in Nebraska and analyzes and manages this information using standardized methods. The Program disseminates this information to a wide array of conservation decision makers and uses this information to actively promote the conservation of Nebraska’s natural heritage.

Data on natural communities and rare, threatened and endangered species is collected by program staff, contract biologists and contributing researchers using standardized methods. The program uses a standardized information management system (Biotics 5) to track a variety of biological and non-biological information. Tracked biological information includes data on taxonomy, distribution, abundance, population trends, threats, and habitat and management requirements. Examples of critical non-biological information tracked are land-ownership type, land-use and management, and distribution of protected areas within the state.

The Nebraska Natural Heritage Program is a member of NatureServe, an international conservation organization that is the hub of the Natural Heritage Network. The Network includes Heritage Programs in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces and more than a dozen Latin American and Caribbean countries. Because a standard methodology is used by Heritage programs in all states, data can be aggregated and Nebraska’s biological diversity can be considered within a regional and national context.

Information collected and maintained by the Program aids in the conservation of Nebraska’s biological diversity in five main areas:

Environmental review

Degradation of biological resources can be minimized by incorporating biodiversity considerations into environmental reviews early in the development planning process. To help facilitate the design and implementation of ecologically sound development, the Program provides biological and ecological information to local, state, and federal agencies, private corporations and consulting firms.

Conservation planning

The Program’s methods for ranking the conservation status of species, communities and sites allows conservation priorities to be set based on sound scientific information. Integrated biological and land-use information is used to identify critical areas in need of protection and to establish conservation priorities based on a statewide, regional and national context. State and federal agencies and private conservation organizations use this information in land acquisition and other protection activities.

Habitat management

Wise stewardship of natural areas requires detailed knowledge of sensitive and endangered species and communities. Information maintained by the Heritage Program on the requirements of plants, animals and natural communities is used to guide habitat management.

Research and education

Results from the Program’s inventory work guide new scientific research. The Heritage database represents an important resource for long-term ecological monitoring.

Threatened and endangered species listing review

The database provides current information on the abundance and distribution of rare and imperiled species, which is used in the state and federal processes of listing or de-listing these species as threatened or endangered. Heritage information and expertise is also utilized in writing recovery plans for state and federally listed species.