2015 Natural Areas Plan cover

2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan Update

The 2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan lists the rare species, ecosystems, and geological features present in Oregon and where they are represented by protected lands.

In preparation for the 2015 Plan update, a geodatabase of Oregon's Natural Areas was produced. This spatial layer contains all registered and dedicated sites and those natural areas included in the Oregon Natural Areas Plan as conserving rare species, habitats, or geological features. If you find errors or omissions in this geodatabase please contact inrpdxweb[at]pdx.edu with updated information.

Natural Areas Plan History

The Oregon Legislature established the Oregon Natural Areas Program in 1979 as a way to protect high quality native ecosystems and rare plant and animal species. The program is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and is guided by the Natural Heritage Advisory Council.  In 2010, the Council adopted the Oregon Natural Areas Plan, a report that defines the full range of Oregon's natural heritage and guides the selection of priority areas for the establishment of natural areas. INR's Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) helped develop the Oregon Natural Areas Plan and assists the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department by maintaining natural areas records, providing scientific advice and coodinating with regional and national natural areas programs. ORBIC has a long history working with the Natural Areas Program and has helped guide it since 1979, when ORBIC was called the Oregon Natural Heritage Program.

The goals of the Oregon Natural Areas Program are to:

  1. Create a discrete and limited system of natural areas representing the full range of Oregon's natural heritage resources. These areas are to be used for scientific research, education and nature interpretation.
  2. Establish a process and means for public and private sector voluntary cooperation in the development of a system of natural areas.
  3. Provide advice to managers of natural areas on the management and use of such areas and provide information concerning the conservation of natural heritage resources and special species to the state, federal and local agencies that manage lands within Oregon   

The Oregon Natural Areas program collaborates with regional and national natural areas programs, including an interagency Natural Areas Committee, that is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. This committee meets twice a year, and has representatives from the federal land management agencies, state agencies, The Nature Conservancy, and others interested in Natural Areas. The Natural Areas Association helps coordinate efforts throughout the U.S. and the world, and promotes information exchange regarding the management and establishment of natural areas.

Related Materials

  • 2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan (2015) (PDF) - Adopted by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in January, 2016.
  • Oregon Natural Areas Plan (2010) (PDF) - The plan was adopted by the State Land Board on December 14, 2010. This book describes the Natural Areas Program in Oregon. This is Oregon’s first Natural Areas Plan, and serves as an update to the “Oregon Natural Heritage Plan” which was released every 5 years, from 1988 – 2003. 
  • Register of Natural Heritage Resources - The Oregon Register lists Oregon's most important sites with significant natural heritage resources. Sites on the list are primarily on state lands, but also includes voluntarily listed sites on private or municipal lands, and a few federally owned sites which were registered before they were acquired by the government.  Any natural area in the state can become part of the Registry through a voluntary process established by the Oregon Legislature. 
  • List of Dedicated Natural Heritage Conservation Areas - Sites on the Register of Natural Heritage Resources can also be designated as Dedicated Natural Heritage Conservation Areas.  These sites have additional protections to sites on the Registry of Natural Heritage Resources.
  • List of Research Natural Areas - These are natural areas on federal lands, that were designated by federal agencies for research purposes. 
  • Oregon Natural Areas Act (2012) - These laws set out the definitions of the Natural Areas Program, the Advisory Committee, agency duties, the process of dedicating natural areas, and other findings. All Oregon laws are viewable on the Oregon laws search site, and laws related to state lands can be found with Chapter 273, with the Natural Areas Program law starting at 273.563.