Conservation Data


To achieve “Green Growth” communities need to use conservation data in planning activities. To start using the data:

  1. Review the recommended conservation datasets on the NC Natural Heritage Data Explorer and integrate the data with your community’s existing GIS database.
  2. Review Section 2 of the Green Growth Toolbox Handbook to learn about these data layers and how to use them in planning.
  3. Start using the data in visioning and plan-making—display the data on land use planning maps and use these maps to help guide land use decision making.
  4. Use the data in crafting incentives and in ordinance and rule-setting—display the data on maps to determine districts for incentives and ordinances that encourage wildlife and natural resource conservation.
  5. Use the data in development site selection, review and design—consult the data before purchase of development tracts, when reviewing development applications and during development design.


For Regional Data downloads see below.

To view the layers in GIS: Download the map layers detailed in Section 2 of the Toolbox handbook from the links provided on the tabs.

To view the data right away, use the Natural Heritage Data Explorer at:

Not all GGT Conservation Data layers are housed on the Natural Heritage Data Explorer main map. You can add other Conservation Data layers to the NHDE online.

  • Zip any files on your computer that you would like to add to the NHDE or
  • Copy the Map or Feature Service of the map layers you are adding.
    • Click the tabs below, if the map layer is a Map Service, when you click on the link it will take you to a web page. The web address of that page is the Map Service. It will have ‘/service/’ in the address. Copy the web address.
  • In the NHDE online map click on Add Resources in the upper left.
  • Paste the URL of the Map or Feature Service of the map layer or activate the ‘File’ checkbox and browse to your zip file.
  • Name your map layers before you add them.
  • Do not refresh your screen or close the window until you are finished using the NHDE, or your added map layers will disappear.

Please contact us at or if you need assistance.

Go to Data layers are described on this page and in Section 2 of the Toolbox Handbook. Scroll to the bottom of the page to download the data.

We recommend as little or ideally no development take place in Natural Heritage Natural Areas.

National Wetlands Inventory: The NWI data is maintained by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. In urban areas it can be out of date, because it is not updated often. Check this map layer against aerial photos for site level planning.

NWI data download: Select North Carolina on the Download by State page.

NWI Web Service: Wetlands Mapper | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (

NC-CREWS – Coastal Region Evaluation of Wetland Significance: This layer is managed by the NC Division of Coastal Management and is available for the NC Coastal Counties. It is more accurate than the NWI. It also rates wetlands according to their quality as Exceptional, Significant and Beneficial. The type of wetland is also in the data table.

The wetland rating in the data table is as follows.

Field / column OWR1 contains the Overall Wetland Rating. A value of 3 is Exceptional, a value of 2 is Significant, and a value of 1 is Beneficial.

The most up to date data is available at: Download Coastal Wetlands Spatial Data | NC DEQ

The data download does not have the text for the wetland rating in the data table. However, you can download a CREWS legend layer file here to import to the CREWS shape in your GIS system. It will display OWR1 values of 3 as Exceptional etc.

Click here for NCWRC recommendations for small wetland conservation in developing areas.


Subwatersheds with federally listed aquatic species: These smaller watersheds contain federally listed threatened or endangered aquatic species. Records and mapping are documented in field surveys by state and federal agencies.

Click here for NCWRC recommendations for stream conservation in these subwatersheds.

High Quality and Outstanding Resource Water Watersheds data is managed by NC Division Environmental Quality.  This information may provide extra justification for stream conservation. Click here for the NCDEQ Water resources data page and here for their mapper. Click on the drop down menu next to Surface Water Classifications to view the HQW ORW watersheds. The HQW and ORW watershed data can be downloaded from this page.

An explanation of these map layers is in Section 2 of the Toolbox handbook.


Maps through FEMA and the NC Floodplain Mapping Program.

There are currently 2 sets of data for streams that are the most accurate and contain the most information including NCDEQ Surface Water Classifications.

Mountains Region: Detailed data from the NC Stream Mapping Program


Remainder of the state: We recommend using the NC1map_Hydrography layer available here on NC OneMap.

Click here for NCWRC recommendations for stream conservation.

We recommend a 150 yard Hunting Safety Buffer from development adjacent to Game Lands where hunting occurs. Click here for these areas.

Smoke Awareness Areas are a ½ mile area mapped on locations that conduct prescribed, low intensity, fires. Smoke is possible here once every other year. We recommend no permanently inhabited structures in these areas. Click here to download.

Wildlife habitats provide important services for helping our communities become more resilient to a changing climate, including carbon storage and sequestration and hazard mitigation. The N.C. Office of Climate Resiliency and Recovery provides a centralized place for acessing data related to climate resiliency planning needs. The datasets most applicable to wildlife conservation planning are highlighted below. More information on these datasets can be found in Section 2 of the Green Growth Toolbox Handbook.

The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes dataset is a useful dataset for understanding which habitats are most important to conserve to support ecological shifts in our landscape.

The Nature Conservancy also used satellite imagery to map the Estimated Inland Flood Extent of Recent Hurricanes (Hurricanes Matthew, 2016 and Florence, 2018). Their analyses shows that flooding often went beyond the 100-year floodplain boundaries.

The NC Conservation Benefits Calculator is a web-based tool developed by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability in collaboration with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina to help decision-makers understand the multiple benefits natural and working lands provide to communities and/or landowners.


Click on the tabs below to download regional Conservation Data which are specific to local habitats and conditions. These data are different and provide more information than the statewide data.

Piedmont Region

Coastal Region