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Home > Programs > Bureau of Policy and Administration > Division of Planning and Development > Natural Heritage

Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program

Plymouth Gentian (Sabatia kennedyana), known from only four Rhode Island locations.
The Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program (NHP) is a comprehensive statewide inventory of Rhode Island's rarest and most vulnerable natural features. The Program was established in 1978 as a cooperative venture of The Nature Conservancy (a national, non-profit land conservation organization) and the Department of Environmental Management, where it serves as an arm of the Division of Planning and Development. The NHP maintains an extensive and dynamic database of maps, computer files, and other materials documenting the locations of rare species and other significant natural features, management and stewardship needs, and threats to critical areas. The NHP has developed lists of those species considered to be endangered, threatened, or of special concern in the state. Surveys are conducted annually to locate and monitor rare plants, vertebrate and selected invertebrate animals, and exemplary natural communities. In addition, the Program is a cooperator in several longterm surveys to define the distribution and status of selected biotic groups, including breeding birds, reptiles and amphibians, and plants. These surveys will provide a library of baseline information upon which to assess future changes in the Rhode Island environment. The NHP works closely with several groups on these studies including the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, Rhode Island Natural History Survey (, and the New England Plant Conservation Program ( The NHP is currently linked to similar programs in all 50 states through NatureServe, (, which provides institutional and database support, as well as coordination of nationwide data requests.

Data generated by the NHP is used to prioritize land protection activities throughout the public and private sectors. For example, applications for Open Space grants offered by the Natural Heritage Preservation Commission are assessed for the presence of rare species and other significant natural features. The Program also reviews development proposals and provides coordination for agencies requiring information on the potential impacts to endangered species. NHP staff conduct inventories and site assessments for potential occurrence of rare species and unique habitats, and also conducts site-specific inventories of plants, breeding birds, reptiles and amphibians, and selected invertebrates. Results obtained by survey work allows the NHP to provide guidelines for the most beneficial management schemes to maintain diverse natural communities.


Rare Native Animals of RI (PDF)

Rare Native Plants of RI (PDF)

Natural Community Classification of RI (PDF)

For General Information 222-6800 • After Hours Emergencies 222-3070 • Disclaimer
rev. 10/11/07