Mapping Vermont's Natural Heritage

BioFinder Home

 Map << Using BioFinder << Interpreting Results <<  Tips & Tricks  <<  Creating BioFinder << VT Conservation Design

Plan: Using BioFinder for Land Use Planning

  • Explore - Click anywhere on the map to see what's there! Our MapTips will show you which components are present.

  • Learn - For a deeper dive into the biological diversity of a particular area, we'll show you how to maximize BioFinder skills and knowledge

  • Plan - Using BioFinder for land use planning at the statewide, regional, town and even parcel scales is a great way to get up-to-date information and ecological context.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is pleased to share Mapping Vermont’s Natural Heritage, a guide for municipal and regional planners.  This guide supplements the work of the Department’s Community Wildlife Program, which offers technical assistance and support to communities seeking conservation strategies for Vermont’s species, habitats, and the networks of land and water that support our natural resources. Because every community has a different set of resources to work with, and because the goals and values of every community require a different set of solutions, this guide was created to empower communities with the information and resources necessary to find conservation strategies that work for them.

Part I describes the datasets found on seven maps.  Open BioFinder Map on a separate tab in your browser, or you can download pdfs formatted for each town in Vermont here.

Map 1:  Conservation Base Map
Map 2:  Land Cover
Map 3: Forest Pattern
Map 4: Physical Features
Map 5: Water
Map 6: Community and Species Scale Wildlife Resources
Map 7: State and Regional Priorities

SEE the seven map set for every town in Vermont

Part II offers a step by step approach for (1) determining which locations in a community are most important to conserve, and (2) finding conservation strategies appropriate for the community.

Mapping Vermont's Natural heritage 2017 DRAFT



Identifying Local Ecological Priorities: A Suggested Process


Step 1: Locate Landscape Priorities

et's start with the big stuff: the forest networks, the waterways, and the physical landforms that support them. These are the building blocks for nearly all ecological processes.By outlining these, we can effectively and efficiently paint a picture of the locations most needed to maintain ecological function.

  • Open the BioFinder map and make sure the PRIORITIZATION theme is selected. 
  • Double click on your area of interest to zoom in, and continue this process until you can see the entire area at the closest range possible. 
  • Make sure that the box next to "Vermont Conservation Design—Landscape Scale Components" is checked. Click the box first next to "Highest Priority," and then the box next to "Priority." Highest Priority locations will appear in dark green, and Priority locations will appear in light green. Those areas on which you can still see the background aerial photo lack priority and highest priority known ecological components.

Together, the locations outlined provide a foundation upon which the majority of local ecological interactions occur, like the stage and set of a theater production. This foundation must be kept intact for an ecological function to continue at its current level. However, these areas span broad acreage across the state.

While highly ecologically important, these lands also make up much of Vermont's working and rural landscape. While large-scale development or intensive human land use can diminish the ecological function of these areas, many human activities and land uses can be compatible when conducted appropriately.

Step 2: Locate Species and Community Priorities

While landscape priorities give us the framework within which most ecological interactions occur, important pieces are missing when we consider species or species assemblages with specialized needs. Chosen because of their importance to species and communities of conservation concern in Vermont, the specialized habitat components mapped at this scale are often small in area but are just as important in maintaining regional biodiversity.

For example, wildlife crossings are locations where wide-ranging mammal species such as bear, bobcat, and fisher are most likely to traverse roads as they travel to meet their daily or seasonal dietary needs or disperse to find mates. If these crossing areas do not remain available, animals that use them may not be able to persist even when other habitat requirements are present.

To see species and community priorities:

  • Make sure that the box next to "Species and Community Scale Components" is checked. 
  • Click the box first next to "Highest Priority," and then the box next to "Priority." Highest Priority locations will appear in dark purple, and Priority locations will appear in light purple. Those areas without either shade of purple lack priority and highest priority known ecological components.

Because they are generally small in size, species and community priorities are often quite vulnerable. For some components, a seemingly minor change in land use could wipe out an entire patch of habitat—a vernal pool, for example, or a mast stand.

And although these components themselves may cover little acreage, the processes altered by a single loss may change food webs, impact disease regimes, or alter migration or dispersal patterns across the ecosystem. While we label components in both Steps 1 and 2 as "priority" and "high priority," species and community priorities have different implications, both ecological and regulatory, than landscape priorities.

Step 3: Identify the Components

Now, we can identify which components contribute to priority and high priority locations, since there are different implications for development and land use related to each component.

  • Use your cursor to point to a specific location of interest. Click once on that location. A box will pop up on the screen that tells you which Species and Community Scale priorities are present in that spot, with a check indicating presence and an "x" indicating absence.
  • Click on the right arrow in the top, right-hand corner of the box to see the second page. This will show you the priorities present at the Landscape Scale.
  • Repeat this process for all locations of interest.

If you would like to identify all the components within a particular area of interest—a town, for example, or a single parcel, you can also run a component report. This tool will allow you to use a drawing tool to outline your target area, then generate a list of components present in that area and their associated acreages.

Start with the locations marked as "highest priority" from both Steps 1 and 2. See which components are present in those "highest priority" areas. Interior forest blocks? Wildlife Crossings?   See Tips & Tricks for specific instructions.

In some locations, you will find more than one priority component present. In these cases, take note! These may be ecological hotspots—places in which many important ecological features co-occur. Wetlands are important. Interior forests are important. Rare physical features are important—etc. Locations in which all of these (or other) important components are present may have even higher ecological value than those with just one component.

The next step is to learn about these components and their implications for land use.

You can also learn more about each of these components by reading the "Component Abstracts" accessible when you click on a point of interest.

Next Steps

The basic process includes:

Prioritizing Ecological Function
     Step 1. Locate priorities at the landscape scale.
     Step 2. Locate priorities at the species and natural community scale.
     Step 3. Identify the important component features.
Including Community Values
     Step 4. Identify areas of high public value.
Developing and Choosing Options
     Step 5. Establish a range of options
     Step 6. Evaluate options and choose strategies


Julie Moore
Agency Secretary

Peter Walke
Deputy Secretary

1 National Life Drive
Davis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3901

(802) 828-1294