Data Download

The NC Natural Heritage Program distributes three shapefiles, updates of which are provided quarterly in January, April, July, and October.  (See the bottom of the page for download links.) Shapefiles are available for:

Natural Heritage Element Occurrences (NHEO): This shapefile identifies occurrences of rare plants and animals, exemplary or unique natural communities, and important animal assemblages (e.g., heronries and colonial waterbird nesting sites). Collectively, these plants, animals, natural communities, and animal assemblages are referred to as "elements of natural diversity" or simply as "elements". Specific occurrences of these elements are referred to as "element occurrences" or simply "EOs".

  • Some of the species we track are subject to poaching or harassment. To protect these species from harm, names and most other identifying information has been removed from the shapefile. Instead, records are identified with EO_ID numbers. For more information, email a list of the EO_ID numbers for the records in which you are interested to Many GIS applications allow users to export selected records from the shapefile attribute table directly as a DBF file; such a file is preferred when providing lists of EO_ID numbers.  Excel files are acceptable as well.
  • Records for the Blue Ridge Parkway are not included in the shapefile. You must contact the Blue Ridge Parkway if you need information for this area.

Managed Areas (MAREA): This shapefile is mostly a collection of fee-simple properties and easements where natural resource conservation is one of the primary management goals. It does however include a number of properties and easements that are not primarily managed for conservation, but that are nonetheless of conservation interest. This conservation interest ranges from properties and easements which support rare species and high‐quality natural communities to open spaces in places where open space is scarce.

  • If there are any properties or easements you feel should be added to this shapefile, or if you notice any errors or omissions, please contact

Dedicated Nature Preserves (DNP): This shapefile is a collection of ecologically important natural areas in which an estate, interest, or right in the natural area has been transferred to the State in any manner authorized in G.S. 113A-164.6. The intention of the dedication is to protect and preserve the biodiversity and natural character of the natural area.

Natural Heritage Natural Areas (NHNA): This shapefile identifies terrestrial and aquatic sites that are of special biodiversity significance. A natural area’s significance may be due to the presence of rare species, exemplary natural communities, or important animal assemblages.

  • Many of these natural areas are on private land and are not open to the public. Before visiting any of these sites, please contact the landowner for permission.

In additon to the above three shapefiles, the NC Natural Heritage Program distributes the Conservation Planning Tool (CPT).  The CPT provides maps that integrate information from multiple sources. These maps are a means for synthesizing and sharing the priorities of the state's conservation agencies and organizations with planners in government and the private sector to inform decisions and guide conservation efforts statewide. Four datasets are available for download (see the bottom of the page for download links.):

  • Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat
  • Open Space and Conservation Lands
  • Agricultural Lands (To rejoin the split zipfile, reverse the file extensions of the pieces, e.g., change to Your unzip software should now recognize the three files as a multipart zipfile.)
  • Forestry Lands

The data and maps included in the assessments can be used independently or in combination. By coordinating assessment data, various users can identify lands that provide multiple resource priorities.  A report provides more information about the data used in the development of the Conservation Planning Tool.