Natural Areas Plans

2020 Oregon Natural Areas Plan

A draft of the 2020 Natural Areas Plan has been completed, and is under review. Spatial data for sites listed in the Plan are also in review and previous editions have been removed until an updated version is approved by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan

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.

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 Oregon Natural Area Plan, a document that describes the natural areas program in Oregon. The plan lists the ecosystems and species that drive the program, guides the selection of priority areas for the establishment of new natural areas, and assists researchers, educators, and the public in learning about or managing designated 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 coordinating 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.

Federal, state, and private organizations have interests in preserving Oregon's natural areas for the benefits these areas provide. To researchers and educators, natural areas provide a relatively undisturbed setting in which to study native ecosystems and species. To resource managers, natural areas can provide a setting for understanding important statewide land management issues. To the public, natural areas provide access to native forests, grasslands, tide pools, bogs, and sagebrush communities. Natural areas also provide habitat for Oregon’s rarest plants and animals like the Fender's Blue Butterfly, the emblem of INR's Natural Areas Program.

Designating natural areas requires sound information regarding characteristics of potential sites, and maintaining areas requires knowledge of proper management techniques. The Natural Areas Program supports the work of agencies and organizations throughout the state by providing such information. INR is part of the Natural Areas Committee, an interagency effort to establish natural areas led by the US Forest Service.

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.