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Natural Heritage Areas Program

The New York Natural Heritage Areas Program (NHA) was established in 2002 in amendments to the Environmental Conservation Law (§11-0539.7). The goal of the NHA Program is to provide state land managers with a tool to highlight and ensure the protection of rare animals, rare plants, and significant natural communities on state-owned land. The option of designating NHAs is a positive step towards successful biodiversity conservation in New York. It recognizes that state lands harbor a substantial portion of New York's biodiversity and that certain of these biodiversity features should be given priority when management decisions are being made.

Designations are voluntary and are made by the agency responsible for each property. They continue to provide state land managers the flexibility they need to balance myriad land uses and objectives. NHA designations focus on the unique and rare natural resources on the property. This designation does not preclude other uses of the area so long as those uses do not interfere with the conservation and management of the rare animals, rare plants, and significant natural communities for which the area was designated.

Criteria for Designation

State-owned waters, lands or portions thereof may be designated as natural heritage areas in order to conserve and manage rare plants, rare wildlife, and significant ecological communities.

To be eligible, a site must provide one or more of the following criteria:

(i) it provides habitat for state-listed endangered or threatened plants or animals;

(ii) it provides habitat for species ranked as rare under criteria developed by the New York Natural Heritage Program; or

(iii) it contains "significant ecological communities" where such term means all rare ecological communities as well as the best examples of common communities.

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