Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Biological Sciences

Content Description

1 online resource (xi, 80 pages) : PDF file, illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Gary Kleppel

Committee Members

Timothy Howard, Peter Nye


Development, Environmental Review, Land-Use, Natural Heritage Program, Survey, Threatened and Endangered Species, Land use, Nature conservation

Subject Categories

Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy


Is New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) information used to affect land-use decisions in New York State? A seemingly simple question, yet it had no answer. The NYNHP maintains a comprehensive database on the status and location of rare species and significant natural communities throughout New York State. The NYNHP uses this database to provide information to consulting firms, project applicants, developers, local governments, state and federal agencies, private organizations, non-profits, the environmental conservation community, and the general public (together referred to as requestors) with the intent that such information will be used to aid in land-use decisions that will benefit rare species and/or their habitat. Many of the projects the NYNHP provides information for are development projects that are going through an environmental review process and need to determine if rare species and/or significant natural communities could be negatively impacted by the project. Once NYNHP information is provided to a requestor there is little to no follow-up conducted, therefore, the NYNHP does not know if its information is being used for its intended purpose. To determine how NYNHP information is being used and how NYNHP can increase and/or improve the provision and use of its information in land-use decisions I conducted an online survey of 381 NYNHP requestors. The survey was conducted between September 20, 2010 and November 9, 2010, and had a 62% response rate. I found that NYNHP information does affect land-use decisions in New York State and that requestors are taking actions that could enhance biodiversity conservation in the state. Requestors are contacting the NYNHP to comply with regulatory procedures and they are contacting other entities for additional assistance and clarification after receiving initial information from the NYNHP. The survey also found that most requestors treat all NYNHP records (state-listed species, rare species, and significant natural communities) equally in terms of their next actions. Responses were split as to whether or not fieldwork was conducted after receiving initial NYNHP information, but the majority of fieldwork was conducted by environmental consulting firms. Also the majority of respondents determined that their project would not impact rare species or significant natural communities, after receiving initial NYNHP information. They did, however, take appropriate actions to make that determination such as conducting fieldwork, assessing the project site remotely, following up with the NYNHP, and/or contacting the US Fish & Wildlife Service and/or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Of those that determined their project likely would impact rare species and/or significant natural communities, a statistically significant number of them dropped, modified, or mitigated their project as a result of these potential impacts. As for the NYNHP increasing and/or improving the use and provision of its information, several actions can be taken. The NYNHP could provide additional information regarding: DEC contacts; guidance about incorporating NYNHP information into the regulatory review process; species habitat and biology; and significant natural communities. Workshops about accessing, interpreting, and applying NYNHP information could also be provided. Lastly, requestors demonstrated a great willingness to submit requests and receive responses electronically; a protocol should be implemented for this. The NYNHP could also benefit from re-running this survey to compare results, as well as conducting a survey of NYNHP requestors that are working on conservation, management, and/or planning projects. A survey could also be conducted with the towns and cities in New York State to determine if they known about and/or use NYNHP information when funding, approving, or undertaking a project. The NYNHP could also start an education and outreach program with its requestors to further improve the use of its information.