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Natural Areas

Evaluating and Protecting Tennessee’s Rare Species and Habitats

The Division of Natural Areas is dedicated to the protection and proper management of native plants, animals, and natural communities across Tennessee. Along with managing a state-wide system of natural areas, the Division of Natural Areas is a lead authority regarding the location and ecology of Tennessee’s rare species. With experts in conservation biology, botany, zoology, ecology, natural resource management, and geographic information systems (GIS), Division of Natural Areas professionals focus their efforts on searches, monitoring, conservation, restoration, and management of Tennessee's native species and plant communities. Data gathered by division biologists help guide the Bureau of Parks and Conservation in protecting Tennessee’s special places as state parks or natural areas. We also assist other land-management agencies, conservation organizations, and individuals to determine proper management of plants and animals on Tennessee’s protected lands and private property. Furthermore, rare species data maintained by the division are used by individuals, companies, and public agencies in the environmental permitting and review process.

The Division of Natural Areas is a member of NatureServe’s Natural Heritage Network, a consortium of Natural Heritage & Natural Area Programs from each state in the U. S., and similar programs from Canada and Latin America. Division members contribute to NatureServe Explorer, a leading source information about North America’s native species and ecosystems.

The Division of Natural Areas also is active with the Natural Areas Association, an organization dedicated to supporting the science-based conservation work of natural areas professionals.

Natural Areas Program

The Tennessee Natural Areas Program, in the Division of Natural Areas, was established to provide oversight and management of Tennessee designated state natural areas. The Program administers the Natural Areas Preservation Act of 1971 (T.C.A. 11-14-101) and provides statutory authority for the protection of 85 designated state natural areas.

Natural Areas Events

Tennessee is fortunate to have 85 natural areas across the state. Guided hikes and tours of these ecologically significant areas are offered throughout the year and are sponsored by the Division of Natural Areas and regional conservation groups.

Natural Heritage Inventory Program

The Natural Heritage Inventory Program maintains a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database which contains information on the distribution and ecology of rare plants, animals, and ecological communities across Tennessee.

Environmental Review & Rare Species Lists

At this time, the DNA offers the following information services: rare plant and animal lists, online interactive rare species database search, permits, forms, and site specific environmental reviews. Many of these services are available to the public free of charge, while some require a fee and/or signing a data use agreement for access to the data.

Ginseng Program

The purpose of this program is to monitor the harvest level of wild ginseng to ensure that its commercial exploitation does not cause it to become endangered, and to provide technical assistance to the State’s ginseng dealers and cultivators.

Tennessee Scenic Rivers

The Tennessee Scenic Rivers Program is a voluntary community-based partnership intended to preserve and protect the free flowing, unpolluted and outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, botanical, fish, wildlife, historic or cultural values of selected rivers or river segments in the state. Thirteen rivers or segments of rivers are included in the state scenic rivers program.