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Conservation and Land Use Program for the Hudson River Estuary Watershed

The NEW Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper was released in June 2018! Visit the mapper to explore a wide range of data about habitats, water resources, and other features in the Hudson River estuary watershed.

The Hudson River Estuary Conservation and Land Use program helps communities incorporate natural resources into land-use planning and decision-making. Communities in the Hudson Valley can use tools, training, funding, and technical assistance to improve their capacity for natural resource-based planning. Ultimately, we want to help HV communities adopt practices, plans, and policies that conserve priority lands and waters that benefit people and the estuary, especially forests, wetlands, and streams.

People reviewing a site plan map
Land use decision-makers learn how to identify
important natural resources during project review.

Fact Sheets: The NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program is developing a series of fact sheets related to conservation and land-use planning in the Hudson Valley. Check back for new fact sheets.

Steps for Conserving Nature in Your Community

There are a number of steps communities can take to determine which natural areas provide the most benefits and how to conserve them.

Step 1: What do you have? (identify natural resources)

This process begins with identifying important natural resources within an area.

Field training to identify habitats
Participants verify resources on a site during a habitat
and water resource assessment training.


  • Habitat Summaries: The Hudson River Estuary Program can provide your municipality with a summary of documented significant ecological communities, rare plants and animals, and other available data on biological resources in your town. For more information, contact Ingrid Haeckel at
  • Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper: The Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that can be used to identify habitat and water resource information for use in town-wide planning and development review.
  • Environmental Resource Mapper: The Environmental Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that can be used to identify some of New York State's natural resources and environmental features that are state protected, or of conservation concern.
  • Additional Online Data: The NYS DEC Breeding Bird Atlas and the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas will tell you what breeding bird, or amphibian and reptile species are found in your area of the Hudson Valley. Atlas data were collected by volunteers who reported their wildlife observations to DEC biologists.
  • Creating a Natural Resources Inventory: A Guide for Communities in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed: A natural resources inventory (NRI) provides the foundation for comprehensive land-use planning that proactively considers a community's land and water resources. This manual outlines how to inventory valuable natural and cultural assets and strategies for using an NRI in local land-use and conservation planning. It is available for free download from the Creating a Natural Resources Inventory web page; limited paper copies are available for municipalities.

Step 2: What's most important? (prioritize natural resources)

Priority Open Space Map from the Town of Pleasant Valley Open Space and Farmland Plan
Priority open space map from the Town of
Pleasant Valley Open Space and Farmland Plan

The Conservation and Land Use Program can help you understand what natural resources are regionally important (such as large forests, tidal wetlands, and rare species), and why they might be important to your community (what benefits they provide). Ultimately, communities need to incorporate these into their own priorities.


  • Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework: This manual provides an overview of biodiversity issues in the Hudson River estuary corridor, describes key plant and animal habitats, includes a map and descriptions of Significant Biodiversity Areas in the region, and proposes various strategies for their conservation. This manual is available for free download from the Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework web page.

Step 3: What can you do? (plan, protect, and manage natural resources)

The identification of conservation priorities provides a foundation for smart growth and natural resource protection. By knowing what resources are important and where they occur, municipalities can include sound recommendations in their master plan updates, open space acquisitions, and site-plan reviews. Understanding an even broader view of the ecological landscape can contribute to watershed planning, intermunicipal agreements, and regional initiatives. Whether at the site or regional scale, considering natural resources early in the planning process benefits an array of stakeholders, and contributes to the long-term protection of our natural heritage.


  • Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Communities: Smart Growth Strategies for Protecting the Biological Diversity of New York's Hudson River Valley: This is a manual for local government agencies that provides information about the relevance and importance of natural areas, and describes local tools and techniques that enable protection of important habitats in Hudson Valley communities. The book is available for free download from the Conserving Natural Areas web page. Limited CD and paper copies are available for municipalities.
  • Conservation Guides: The NY Natural Heritage Program maintains online animal, plant, and community guides (link leaves DEC website) that include descriptions, habitat distribution, places to see wildlife or habitats, conservation issues, and recommendations for planning and management.
  • Guidance for Management of Priority Birds: Audubon New York offers species-specific management guidelines on priority bird species of the Hudson Valley; habitat recommendations on grasslands, shrublands, and forests; and other tools supporting bird conservation. See offsite links on right side of

Training and Education

Woodland pool conservation workshop
Volunteers learn about woodland pool conservation.

Conservation and Land Use outreach staff at the Estuary Program offer education programs, workshops, and roundtables to communities to support local conservation efforts in the Hudson Valley. Past workshops have offered guidance and training to planning board members and environmental commissions on topics such as SEQRA and biodiversity; maps and tools available for conservation and land-use planning; and habitat and water resource assessment skills.

Citizen Science

  • Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings: The Estuary Program and Cornell University are working together to conserve forests, woodland pools and the wildlife that depend on these critical habitats. Volunteers can help by reporting when and where they see migrations of woodland pool amphibians. For more information, contact Laura Heady at


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