Natural Heritage Program
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In 1981, the Washington Legislature amended the Natural Area Preserves Act (Ch. 79.70 RCW) and established the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP) within the Department of Natural Resources.
The WNHP manages site-specific and species/ecosystem-specific information on priority species and ecosystems; those that are rare or have very limited distribution. Specifically, the WNHPs mandate is to:
  • Identify which species and ecosystems are priorities for conservation effort,
  • Build and maintain a database for priority species and ecosystems, and
  • Share the information with others so that it can be used for environmental assessments and conservation planning purposes.
Information on priority species and ecosystems comes from a wide variety of sources, including WNHP and other state/federal agency botanists, Native Plant Society members, consultants, UW Rare Care program, published literature, etc. The data is used by a number of agencies, organizations, companies, and individuals for conservation planning, environmental review processes, and other information requests.
In addition to the maintenance of priority species and ecosystems information, the WNHP provides assistance in the selection and nomination of Natural Area Preserves (NAPs) and Natural Resources Conservation Areas (NRCAs). NAPs and NRCAs, managed by the Washington Natural Areas Program, are sites established to protect outstanding examples of native ecosystems; habitat for endangered, threatened, and sensitive plants and animals; and scenic landscapes. 
The WNHP is also part of NatureServe; a network of 80 natural heritage programs located in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, and several Latin American and Caribbean countries. NatureServe, together with its natural heritage and conservation data center partners, collects and manages detailed local information on plants, animals, and ecosystems, and develops information products, data management tools, and conservation services to help meet local, national, and global conservation needs. 
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