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Conservation and Land Use Program for the Hudson River Estuary Watershed

Watch a short video (leaves DEC website) to learn how a town used inventory, planning, and Critical Environmental Area designation to help protect its conservation priorities.

Additional information is available at Conservation Planning in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed (leaves DEC website).

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The Hudson River Estuary Conservation and Land Use program helps communities and partners in the estuary watershed to identify conservation priorities and apply planning principles to their decision-making. Municipalities, land trusts, watershed groups, and other organizations can use the program's scientific data, tools, training, and technical assistance to improve their ability to conserve priority lands and waters that benefit people and the estuary.

Natural Areas and Habitat Information

Publications, data, and maps are available from the Estuary Program and partners to learn about natural areas and habitats in local communities and in the estuary watershed:

  • Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper: This interactive mapping application can be used to identify habitats, water resources, and other features to be considered during conservation and land-use planning.
  • Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework: The Framework provides an overview of biodiversity in the estuary watershed, describes key plant and animal habitats, includes a map and descriptions of Significant Biodiversity Areas, and proposes conservation strategies.
  • Habitat Summaries (leaves DEC website): Municipalities engaging in conservation and land-use planning projects can request a summary of biological data available for their community.
  • Conservation Guides (leaves DEC website): The NY Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) maintains online animal, plant, and community guides that include descriptions, habitat distribution, places to see wildlife or habitats, conservation issues, and recommendations for planning and management.
  • GIS Data (leaves DEC website): The Estuary Program partners with NYNHP to increase understanding of conservation priorities in the estuary watershed. Natural Heritage Important Areas (leaves DEC website) are lands and waters that support known populations of rare animals and rare plants, or of rare or high-quality ecological communities. The Forest Condition Index (leaves DEC website) maps and prioritizes large forest patches across the watershed based on a suite of different characteristics.
  • Wildlife Atlases: The Breeding Bird Atlas and the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas provide records of breeding bird, or amphibian and reptile species, reported by volunteers to the DEC.
  • Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings Project: This program enlists volunteers to identify locations where annual migrations of forest amphibians cross roads in the estuary watershed, and collect observations about the migration.

Conservation and Land-Use Planning Guidance

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

The process of inventorying a community's natural areas, setting conservation priorities, and identifying planning strategies is critically valuable to protect ecosystems and quality of life for residents. This approach can help communities protect the benefits they receive from nature such as clean water, wildlife habitat, scenery, and climate adaptation. Conservation planning is also an essential process for land trusts, watershed groups, and regional partners. Publications (in PDF) available to guide conservation and land-use planning in the estuary watershed include:

Fact Sheets

For concise overviews of topics related to biodiversity, natural areas, and conservation and land-use planning, the following fact sheets are available to view or download. Hard copies are available upon request.


The following videos explore conservation planning topics through interviews and footage of the beautiful estuary watershed. They are available to view on the DEC YouTube channel (leaves DEC website) and the Conservation and Land Use YouTube channel (leaves DEC website).

Opportunities for Assistance and Education

  • Conservation and Land Use Webinars: In this monthly training series, different speakers offer presentations on conservation principles, best practices, and tools to identify and conserve important habitat and water resources.
  • Technical Assistance: Staff and partners can provide technical assistance to communities to help incorporate conservation data and principles into comprehensive plans, natural resources inventories, open space plans, and land-use policies.
  • Hudson River Estuary Grants: These competitive grants can provide funding for developing natural resource inventories, open space inventories, open space plans, connectivity plans, and conservation financing feasibility studies.

More about Conservation and Land Use Program for the Hudson River Estuary Watershed :

  • Conservation and Land Use Webinars - Learn more about conservation and land use planning with this compilation of helpful webinars provided by the Hudson River Estuary program and our partners throughout the Hudson River valley.
  • Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings - By documenting Big Night migrations and road crossings, volunteers can contribute to the conservation of woodland pool breeding amphibians in the estuary watershed.