Two Types of Natural Areas
DNR manages two different kinds of natural areas to conserve and restore special state-managed lands.
Natural Area Preserves
Natural Area Preserves protect the best remaining examples of many ecological communities including rare plant and animal habitat. The DNR Natural Heritage Program identifies the highest quality, most ecologically important sites for protection as natural area preserves. The resulting network of preserves represents a legacy for future generations and helps ensure that blueprints of the state's natural ecosystems are protected forever. The preserve system presently includes more than 37,000 acres in 55 sites throughout the state. In eastern Washington, habitats protected on preserves include outstanding examples of arid land shrub-steppe, grasslands, vernal ponds, oak woodlands, subalpine meadows and forest, ponderosa pine forests and rare plant habitats. Western Washington preserves include several large coastal preserves supporting high quality wetlands, salt marshes and forested buffers. Other westside habitats include mounded prairies, sphagnum bogs, natural late-successional forests and grassland balds.
Natural Resources Conservation Areas
Natural Resource Conservation Areas protect outstanding examples of native ecosystems, habitat for endangered, threatened and sensitive plants and animals, and scenic landscapes. Environmental education and low-impact public use are appropriate on conservation areas where they do not impair the protected features. Critical habitat is conserved in NRCAs for many plant and animal species, including rare species. NRCAs include coastal and high elevation forests, alpine lakes, wetlands, scenic vistas, nesting birds of prey, rocky headlands and high-quality native plant communities. Conservation areas also protect geologic, cultural, historical, and archeological sites. More than 114,000 acres are conserved in 36 Washington State NRCAs.