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The WNHP GIS Data Set is a Geographic Information System (GIS) data set containing the most authoritative information available for Washington's rare plant species populations and endangered ecosystems.

WNHP GIS currently represents more than 7,000 site-specific records of Washington's most significant elements of biodiversity, including:

  • Rare vascular and non-vascular plant species.
  • High-quality terrestrial and wetland ecosystems of special concern
(For information regarding animal species in WA, contact the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.)

Information on plants and ecosystems found in the data set includes:

  • Assessment of rarity using the state and global ranking system of the Natural Heritage Network and NatureServe.State and federal listing status of species
  • Geographic locations of inventoried element occurrences and plant communities
  • Date on which an element or community was last observed. (WNHP GIS Data Set represents an ongoing and incomplete inventory of the state.)

Managing Sensitive Information

To protect our state's most imperiled resources, the Washington Natural Heritage Program provides accurate, up-to-date information to landowners, land managers, planners, and consultants. To aid the protection of rare species, we provide information that includes location information on rare species populations. However, distributing precise locations of vulnerable species could compromise their protection, and compromise landowners’ interests as well. For these reasons, precise locations of rare species populations are treated as sensitive information by the Natural Heritage Network.

In order to balance the interests of data users with species protection, the locations of rare plant and animal populations in the WNHP GIS Data Set are represented as generalized ‘areas-of-concern’. Some known element occurrences have been removed from this data set before distribution to protect landowner interests. Locations of high-quality wetland and terrestrial ecosystems are not considered sensitive information; these mapped boundaries are included in the WNHP GIS data set.

Restrictions on the Licensed Use of the WNHP GIS Data Set:

WNHP is proud to provide this value-added product as a service to the state. The program also has the responsibility to manage sensitive information wisely.

Users of WNHP GIS Data Set are granted a one-year license agreement that includes the following terms:
  1. As provided for in the Washington Natural Areas Preserves Act, use of these data are licensed for environmental assessment or proprietary land management purposes; other uses are not authorized.
  2. Redistribution data in any format is not permitted; all inqueries regarding these data should be directed to WA Natural Heritage Program at
  3. Display over the Internet, or display of maps in public displays or publications, is not permitted.
  4. Information may be referenced in publications in summary form. Washingon Natural Heritage Program should be cited as the source.
  5. Licensed use is provided for one year. The product is updated annually; licenses may be renewed.

Downloading the Data

The WNHP GIS Data Set is distributed as a zipped file for users of software which support ESRI Shapefile formats. You may download it from the DNR GIS Data distribution site.

How to Use the Washington Natural Heritage GIS Data Set
The WNHP GIS Data Set is formatted for general use by public agencies, planners, landowners, consultants, and researchers who need regular access to WA Natural Heritage information.

As authorized by the Washington Natural Area Preserves Act, these data are distributed for environmental assessment or proprietary land management activities which are consistent with the goals of the Washington Natural Heritage Program.

While not all detailed information maintained by the program is contained in the WNHP GIS Data Set, it serves as a powerful screening tool for project areas or research.
“What if I don’t have GIS software?”

GIS has become a common tool for use by land management and environmental professionals. For those who are not users of GIS software, there is an inexpensive way to begin using GIS data with ESRI ArcReader, or other freely distributed GIS software products. These products offer the ability to view GIS data and maps, and query information contained in the WNHP GIS Data Set.

References for free or inexpensive GIS software products are listed below.

Along with GIS software, you will need reference map layers displaying features such as roads, streams, or political boundaries. One good source of GIS map data is listed below.

Other WA State GIS Map Data

Many GIS coverages, such as roads, streams, political boundaries, and forest inventories, are available for download from the Publications and Data section of the WA DNR Website.

GIS Software on the Internet

Below are Internet addresses for some of the free or inexpensive GIS software packages capable of viewing GIS data sets available from Washington Dept. of Natural Resources. This listing does not imply endorsement by WA DNR of these companies or products.

ESRI ArcReader (free) and ArcGIS

Geomatica FreeView software (free)

GRASS GIS software (free)

Intergraph GeoMedia

MapInfo Software

Maptitude software

MicroImages TNTmips Free software (free)

Washington Natural Heritage Program -
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Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources, PO Box 47000,
Olympia, WA 98504-7000  Tel. (360) 902-1000