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Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic
Wisconsin's natural communities
about Species of Greatest Conservation Need
conservation actions for SGCNs and natural communities
datasets, documents, figures and maps
Frequently asked questions about the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan
Contact information
For more information on the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan, contact:
Shari Koslowsky
WWAP coordinator

Conservation Opportunity Areas and Wisconsin's Ecological LandscapesWisconsin Wildlife Action Plan

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Quick Links - COA information [csv]

What is a Conservation Opportunity Area (COA)?

Conservation Opportunity Areas (COA) help to answer one of the questions most frequently asked by landowners and organizations that want to help SGCN and their habitats—where?

COAs are places on the landscape that contain significant ecological features [PDF], natural communities or SGCN habitat for which Wisconsin has a responsibility for protecting and conserving when viewed from a global, continental, upper Midwest regional or state perspective. They are some of the best places in our state to implement the conservation actions described in the WWAP.

COA maps by Ecological Landscape

Download PDF maps of Conservation Opportunity Areas by ecological landscape. The maps include both aquatic and terrrestrial COAs and the scale of their ecological significance. Note that COAs representing large diffuse areas may not appear on these maps. Unmapped COAs are identified with "U" in the COA database.

Other resources for conserving SGCNs and their habitat on the landscape

Opportunities to protect or restore habitat for Wisconsin’s SGCNs exist throughout the state. In addition to COA maps, the WWAP-related resources described below and related links listed on the side of this page can also be used to identify species and habitat targets on the landscape and make decisions about conservation actions.

The COA database [CSV] provides a list of possible and observed SGCNs, natural communities and other ecological features and designations associated with each of the current 213 COAs.

The Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) Public Portal is a free online mapping application for landowners planning on-the-ground projects (e.g., rural development, prairie restoration, utility maintenance or lake drawdown). It can show the proximity of your property or project to recorded occurrences of endangered, threatened and special concern animals and plants, natural communities and other unique features.

COAs, ecological data and maps by county provide a local source for species, soil, hydrological, vegetation and other characteristics that are important for successful conservation.

The ecological priorities tables [PDF] help to identify sites or targets for conservation action in each of Wisconsin’s 16 ecological landscapes. They identify those situations on sites where the associations scored between SGCNs, natural communities and ecological landscapes are maximized at the same time.

  • There is a high (H) or moderate (M) degree of probability that the SGCN is associated with the ecological landscape, the SGCN-EL score = 3 or 2 (H or M) AND
  • The SGCN is significantly or moderately associated with the natural community, the SGCN-NC score = 3 or 2 (H or M) AND
  • The ecological landscape represents a major opportunity to manage or sustain that natural community, the NC-EL score= 3 (H)

Getting started

Ecological landscapes are mosaics of natural, agricultural and developed land cover. For any given natural community, some landscapes represent major opportunities for management and restoration and others are less important. In addition to a species' probability of occurring in an ecological landscape, species have different levels of association with different natural communities that may be found in that landscape. For example, Franklin's ground squirrels are highly associated with oak barrens and pine barrens, but are moderately associated with dry-mesic prairies.

To begin understanding your site's potential use the resources on this page to check:

  • whether the site overlaps, is adjacent to or connected with a COA by waterways, agricultural or forest lands, utility or transportation right's-of-way or undeveloped lands;
  • what the NHI portal and COA database say about which species or habitats are most likely to be present and benefit by conservation actions near your site;
  • whether the map of Ecologically Signification Places for the ecological landscapes in that county show conservation sites or natural areas nearby;
  • which plants, animals and natural communities are already on your site and how well they match up with the ecological priorities table (could your site be a conservation opportunity area?); and
  • conservation actions for the natural communities and species on or near your site as a starting point for a conservation plan.
Last revised: Tuesday January 10 2017