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Prairie white fringed orchid

Close-up photo of the prairie white fringed orchid, a federally listed species.

Access NHI data
for research and planning purposes.
Wisconsin's rare species and natural communities.
a plant or non-game animal. [exit DNR]
the natural heritage working list.
Contact information
For more information on NHI data, contact:
Julie Bleser
NHI Data Manager

Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) program methodology and database

The Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) program's three objectives are to: 1) collect information on occurrences of rare plants and animals, high-quality natural communities and significant natural features in Wisconsin; 2) standardize this information, enter it into an electronic database, and 3) use this information to protect and manage rare species, natural communities and natural features.


The NHI program is part of an international network coordinated by Nature Serve [exit DNR], a non-profit organization. All NHI programs use a standard methodology for collecting, characterizing and managing data making it possible to combine data at various scales to address local, state, regional and national issues. Programs focus on natural communities, rare plant and animal species and other natural features referred to as elements of biodiversity. Elements tracked by the Wisconsin NHI Program are found in the NHI Working List.

In general, NHI uses two approaches to inventorying biodiversity. The first approach focuses on locating occurrences of particular elements - for example,- where phlox moths occur in Wisconsin. The second approach focuses on assessing the components of a particular area - e.g. - what rare and endangered resources occur within the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape or the Black River State Forest. The latter approach often employs a "top down" analysis that begins with an assessment of the natural communities present and their relative quality and condition. This information is subsequently used to determine where different species-oriented surveys should be conducted. This second approach, commonly referred to as "coarse filter-fine filter," concentrates inventory efforts on those sites most likely to contain target species. It also allows sites to be placed in a larger, landscape context for broader applications of ecosystem management principles.


The NHI map team consists of mapping specialists and data managers who work together to organize, standardize, map and store the element occurrence (EO) records. Data come from various sources, including statewide inventories; data generated by NHI cooperators at universities, nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies and individuals; and published literature and reports submitted to DNR. All records go through a quality assurance process that is part of the standardized NHI methodology. The NHI Working List provides an annual snapshot of what is tracked in the NHI database. The NHI data are available to DNR staff via the NHI Portal, a web-based application on DNR's IntraNet internal web system, and also to non-DNR partners who have entered into a data license agreement.

Last revised: Wednesday August 21 2013