Louisiana Natural Heritage Program

The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program is part of the Natural Heritage Network. This network, originally developed by The Nature Conservancy and now coordinated by NatureServe, is designed to gather, organize and distribute standardized, detailed information on the biological diversity across all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and also parts of Latin America.

The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program was founded in 1984 through a partnership with the state of Louisiana and the Nature Conservancy and is now maintained by LDWF. The program was founded with the goal of developing and maintaining a database on rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals and natural communities for Louisiana. In the process of working toward this goal, we have accumulated over 6,000 occurrences of rare, threatened and endangered species, unique natural communities, and other distinctive elements of natural diversity, and identified some 380 ecologically significant sites statewide. A detailed "element occurrence record", which includes precise locations, species population status, and habitat conditions and characteristics, is entered for each species occurrence in the program's Biological Conservation Database. Location for each element is mapped on U.S. Geological Service 7.5' topographic maps, and element locations may also be downloaded from the database and mapped in a Geographic Information System (GIS) format. Information for element occurrence records is generally gathered from program staff field surveys, but is also obtained from survey contracts, state and federal government agencies, research studies, university contacts, herbaria, and Louisiana nature enthusiasts. While the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program has created an extensive database documenting Louisiana's native biological diversity, there are many natural areas in the state that have not yet been surveyed. Records for new occurrences are continuously being added to the database, and current records are updated as new information becomes available. Program data is applied to land use decisions, environmental impact assessments, resource management, conservation planning, endangered species reviews, research, and education.

The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program's work has also expanded beyond inventory, to include research on threatened and endangered species, and involvement in diverse conservation issues concerning nongame wildlife species and plants. The job is not complete, and because habitats change, the nature of the task is dynamic.