What is a county natural areas inventory?

An inventory of a county's natural areas is a systematic search for the best examples of natural habitats and to produce reports and maps that identify and describe the most important natural areas.

Why are inventories of natural areas needed?

Natural areas are resources that make North Carolina and its counties attractive to live in and visit. Natural areas are critical to the environmental health and quality of our state. Natural areas are reservoirs of biological diversity and homes for native plants and animals.

Who uses a natural areas inventory?

Landowners, project planners, conservation groups, and government agencies use natural areas inventories to help plan for the best use of natural areas. Inventories tell us what kinds of natural habitats exist in North Carolina, where the best examples are found, and what areas are already protected. This information can prevent conflicts over land use. Inventories can guide economic development in balance with preservation of environmental resources. Inventories help by identifying natural resources important for plant and animal diversity and quality of life.

An example of the value of county inventories for planning purposes is in Durham County. This county received an award from the National Association of Counties for supporting its natural inventory.

View County Inventory Documents

Where have county natural areas inventories been done?

The Natural Heritage Program has done surveys in 97 North Carolina counties. We thank our partner agencies for supporting these conservation efforts. Local governments, local land trusts, the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, and many other local sources have provided funding.

View the County Inventory Status Map

When are regional inventories conducted?

Sometimes a conservation partner contracts with us for a specific regional ecological project that crosses county boundaries. A Natural Heritage Inventory of the Roanoke River Floodplain, North Carolina is an example. Collaborative inventory projects in the Amphibolite Mountains and the Eno-New Hope Landscape (Triangle area) are currently being discussed.

Who does the work?

We hire field-based biologists who specialize in county inventories. The survey takes about two years. Our inventory biologists understand the natural resources of their area and often are local residents. Natural Heritage Program central staff biologists can assist as needed with the field work. They also review the final reports. We add discoveries from the inventory to the Natural Heritage Program database. Sometimes, we supervise work done by contractors for specialized surveys.

How does the inventory affect landowners?

The purpose of the inventory is to collect ecological information. Inventory biologists must get permission before surveying private property. They provide results to landowners, who can use this information to plan the best use of the land. Biologists use their findings to understand the natural biodiversity of North Carolina. The Natural Heritage Program is not regulatory and does not administer endangered species laws. We provide information to local stakeholders and other partner agencies upon request.

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