NH Wildlife Action Plan and Habitat Maps

Conservation Tools for Your Community

Click for Town Map Download Page
The Wildlife Action Plan includes several tools to assist communities with integrating wildlife habitat conservation into decisions about land use. These tools include detailed descriptions about wildlife species at risk and the habitats they depend on, dynamic and adaptable Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, and maps that depict the different habitats throughout the state, habitat quality and conservation focus area maps.

The following information was developed to help provide an orientation to the Wildlife Action Plan mapping process, summarize the mapping tools, and provide some examples of how this information can be used. We are planning a series of regional WAP presentations and technical workshops to help planners, conservation commission members, land trusts, watershed alliances and interested citizens understand and use the data.

NH mapStatewide habitat map
An important first step in planning for statewide wildlife protection is mapping the distribution of habitats across the state. The map at right shows New Hampshire's array of habitat types. Click here for a description and photos of the habitat types.

Showing habitats on a map statewide was a high priority of New Hampshire's Wildlife Action Plan. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) biologists developed models of habitat. It was not possible to go everywhere in the state to see which habitats were where. It is possible to predict where habitats would be, based on known information. This known information included soils, elevation, climate, landforms, and broad vegetative classes. Based on this data, NHFG predicted the type of vegetation that would grow at that particular location. Additionally, NH Natural Heritage Bureau supplied natural communities data. The NH Land Cover data, which shows locations of various categories of developed and undeveloped land, was also used as well as the National Wetlands Inventory data for wetlands. Updating the maps allows the use of updated versions of the data just described. For a complete explanation, see the Wildlife Action Plan GIS metadata.

Sixteen types of habitat could be modeled in this way. There are five matrix forest types: Hemlock Hardwood Pine, Appalachian Oak Pine, Lowland Spruce Fir, Northern Hardwood Conifer and High Elevation Spruce Fir. There are three freshwater wetlands types: Marsh and Shrub Wetlands, Peatlands and Floodplain Forests. There are three coastal habitats: Saltmarsh, Dunes and Coastal Islands. There are three steep slope habitats: Alpine, Cliff and Rocky Ridge/Talus Slope. And two other small-scale habitats: Pine Barrens and Grasslands.

In 2010, the statewide habitat map was updated to include soils data in Belknap and Merrimack Counties that previously did not have this digitized data, three more years of rare wildlife and plant communities data, grasslands less than 25 acres, shrublands and openings incorporated into forests, and wildlife data that reflects the 2008 revised state Threatened and Endangered Species List and the 2008 revised Species of Special Concern List.

Since the habitats are defined by vegetation type and structure, but based on the needs of wildlife, most forested wetlands are included as part of the forest habitats. Grasslands include croplands as they could easily be converted to grasslands. Although the rare grassland bird species require grasslands 25 acres or larger, we now show all grasslands on our map, since conservation commission members requested this for their planning. These grasslands are important for other birds such as bobolinks and several reptiles.

The map data was updated in 2010. Click here for a brief description of the updates (PDF, 15 KB).

habitat closeupThis habitat map can be viewed in a variety of ways. You can download a pdf of the entire state below in poster size, 11"x17", or in 8.5"x11". You can view an interactive version through GRANIT's GranitView program, or you can view the habitat layers using a GIS software program. Download the habitat layers on GRANITor request a WAP CD containing the GIS layers from the Wildlife Division if you have a slow internet connection (call 603-271-2461 or write to wildlife@wildlife.nh.gov). Click here for a tutorial on how to use the "wildlife theme" on the Data Mapper. Using the Data Mapper program or a GIS software program will allow you to zoom in to a regional or town level. Maps at a local scale show more detail than the statewide map. The map at left shows an area dominated by Hemlock-Hardwood-Pine but has Lowland Spruce-Fir (dark green) and Northern Hardwood-Pine (orange) forest as well. It also has floodplain forests (yellow), marsh and shrub wetlands (aqua), peatlands (navy blue) and grasslands (sand).map from current website to left. Using GIS you could just show the habitats you are interested in, and add data such as roads, protected lands, wellheads or whatever else fits with the information you are trying to discover. The habitats have a minimum size of 1/4 acre, so may not be as useful for specific parcels.

NOTE: A more detailed description of the methods to make these models and maps is available in the technical documentation that comes with the GIS data. Additional information can be found under each habitat profile in Appendix B of the Wildlife Action Plan.

As with most models, the resulting maps and data are limited by the information used to create them. Some areas had a lot of data available while information for others was limited or unavailable. As a result, it is possible that the maps and models may incorrectly predict where a habitat may be found. In addition, human impacts may change a habitat from what it would naturally be to something else. For instance, pine barrens must be burned to stay as pine barrens, and we normally put out wildfires instead of letting them burn out naturally. Recognizing this, the models and maps will be updated regularly as new information and data become available.

2010 Map downloads - Wildlife Habitat Land Cover
Click on the map size to download PDF format map. For GIS data, go to GRANIT (click here) or contact wildlife@wildlife.nh.gov.

Statewide Poster size (5.37 MB)

NEW! Click for Town Map Download Page
Click to download Excel file containing data on amount of each habitat type in each town, watershed and ecoregion. File includes acreage and percent, amount conserved, and amount of highest quality habitat. (317 KB - You must have Excel to open)

Click here to go to the Habitat Description page.

Click here to go to the Highest Ranked Map Description page.

Wildlife Habitat Land Cover Data for Planning and Research
The four examples shown here are designed to help Wildlife Action Plan map users understand some different applications for the maps in research and planning. These smaller-scale detail maps with specific habitat types were created using different habitat layers from Wildlife Action Plan GIS data (Note: Detail maps in multiple formats are on the WAP map CD. CDs are available through the NH Wildlife Action Plan: Mapping habitats for Conservation Planning workshops - click here to find out when the next one is scheduled).

Acworth map


EXAMPLE 1: Acworth Natural Resource Inventory
Many towns are interested in conservation planning and a natural resource inventory is the first step. This kind of map identifies the different types of habitat that can be found in your town. Using GIS allows you to overlap many different layers that you may want to include in a natural resource inventory map. At left is a map of a natural resource inventory of Acworth done by Jeff Littleton of Moosewood Ecological, LLC. The map shows WAP habitat layers, roads, topography, conservation lands, and other information. Notice how local knowledge of the area was added in -- like forested swamps, conifer swamps, and red pine rocky ridge.

Effingham habitats

Effingham NRI

EXAMPLE 2: Effingham Natural Resource Inventory
What you see on a WAP map may not be exactly what you see when you're "on the ground" in a particular habitat. Here's why: the WAP maps are based on habitat models - and they predict a particular habitat. So, if you use the WAP habitat maps as an initial planning tool, that's fine -- but for more definitive work, where you want your map to be as accurate as possible, you will have to do a lot of ground-truthing. 

At top left is a WAP habitat land cover map of the town of Effingham. The Effingham Conservation Commission received a Moose Plate Grant to implement the WAP in their town. Part of that included ground-truthing the WAP habitats. And so, beneath the WAP map you'll see a map of the habitats created by Dr. Rick Van de Poll of Ecosystem Management Consultants for the town of Effingham; he made the map after exploring the habitats on foot.

Notice how the Northern Hardwood Conifer (orange) in the map at bottom extends further out than the predicted habitat in the WAP map. Why? Because the habitat model said that this type of habitat only occurs above a certain elevation, when in fact, when Rick walked those lower sections, the habitat did exist there. This isn't surprising, because habitats occur across a range of conditions that are too variable to include in the model.

As mentioned elsewhere on this page, most forested wetlands are part of the Forest Habitat type; therefore, a more detailed search for wetlands in your town will yield more swamps and vernal pools. Look carefully at Rick's map and you will see that he was able to "break down" the Forest Habitat into multiple habitat types depending on location: Forested Swamps, Red Oak-Pine Rocky Ridge, Mixed Pine-Oak Woodland, and Dry Oak-Pine Forest.

pine barrens

EXAMPLE 3: Finding Pine Barren Moths
Pine Barrens habitat is a globally rare habitat which provides a home for many wildlife species, including hundreds of invertebrate species. Much of New Hampshire's Pine Barrens habitat is fragmented due to development pressure, but the WAP predicted habitat maps picked up on these sometimes very small areas based on the distinctive sandy soil type. 

To monitor and estimate population numbers for these Pine Barrens moths, NH Army National Guard provided funding for biologists to set out moth traps in the Concord Pine Barrens.  Moths from the traps were then identified by University of New Hampshire Professor Donald Chandler and his students.  They identified hundreds of moth species including one very important moth: the state-endangered Zanclognatha martha.  After several years of surveys in the Concord Pine Barrens that proved both successful and informative, and continually yielded a high number of Z. martha, biologists used the habitat maps to extend their Pine Barrens moth search further out in the state. The presence or absence of these moth species is helping to build a Pine Barrens validation model.  As a result of this monitoring effort, the Z. martha has been confirmed to have a stable population in the state and was removed from the endangered species list in Fall 2008. 

At left is a map of the southernmost 2/3rd of the state: it shows existing Pine Barrens habitat in green. The blue outlines indicate towns where pine barrens are predicted to exist in the habitat model, but may be too small to appear on a map of this scale.

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NH Fish and Game Dept.
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Concord, NH 03301

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