Development of a GIS-Based Conservation Planning Toolkit for State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Priorities at the Roan Highlands, North Carolina and Tennessee

Project #: 1764  –   Updated: January 17, 2011

Project Summary

Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy created an accessible and secure GIS-based toolkit for the globally significant Roan Mountain Massif, which enabled the integration of SWAP data into local government land use planning decisions in 3 counties in North Carolina and Tennessee in which Roan is located.

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Location (by county):
Mitchell County (NC)


Congressional Districts:
NC District 11

Bird Conservation Regions:
Appalachian Mountains

USFWS Regions:
Southeast Region

Project size:
92000.0 acres

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Roan Highlands Yes

Full Project Description

Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy created an accessible and secure GIS-based toolkit for the globally significant Roan Mountain Massif, which enabled the integration of SWAP data into local government land use planning decisions in 3 counties in North Carolina and Tennessee in which Roan is located.

Goals and Targets

Primary motivations:

Conservation Mission

Primary goals:

Identify at-risk properties through SWAP and modeled data analyses, and use the tool kit to communicate the importance of protecting such properties through land and conservation easement acquisitions. Use the toolkit in seeking public funds and private matching dollars to achieve land protection transactions.

Geospatial files assembled for the project base map and models were used for immediate analysis and mapping needs during the project. Suggested boundaries and existing property parcels were delineated on a series of slides to support the creation of a new State Natural Area located within the southern region of the project area (See figure 2). These images relied on ecological systems data, biological & wildlife habitat assessments and digital elevation models collected or developed for the WCS funded project. The images were used in a series of meetings with agency and NGO stakeholders.

Final model results identified over 100 high priority conservation tracts within the project boundary. The results were compared to GIS files depicting existing conservation lands to identify opportunity areas.

Foster greater collaboration and coordination among conservation organizations and local planning through standardized data, tools and project participation

Development of GIS datasets in the 2nd quarter fostered collaboration between SAHC, the GIS Consultant, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (TN & NC), the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). The GIS consultant met with the principle GIS designer of the TN WAP from TNC-TN for file sharing and technical advice for implementing project objectives. The director of TWRA’s GIS program contributed the latest 2008 TN WAP priority files for terrestrial, aquatic, and subterranean conservation targets.

Representatives from TNC-NC & SAHC, and the GIS consultant met in the 2nd quarter to review WAP priority areas and immediate conservation targets. A series of maps and presentation materials were generated from this meeting and used in meetings with NC Heritage and WRC officials for the designation of a new State Natural Area.

Provide local planning officials in the 3 counties surrounding the Roan Mountain massif with standardized data layers depicting SWAP priority areas, property parcels, and land and water conservation activities for in the region

Inventories and data acquisitions were completed in the 2nd project quarter. Project team members met with representatives from Avery, Carter, and Mitchell Counties to promote the use of data products and modeling approach. Meetings were held with regional planning and conservation partners in the winter-spring of 2009. These meetings focused on an introduction to the concepts of the SWAP planning tool. Modeled results and approach were highlighted during these meetings as well.

Provide these layers as web mapping services and GIS media to facilitate their analysis with existing datasets

The USGS NBII program provided access to the infrastructure necessary to create web mapping services with modeled data results for the project area. Initially NBII partners at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville were set to host the data; however, due to staff changes in the Knoxville partner office, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted file modeled data on NBII project equipment.

Provide a one-stop site for data needed in the Roan Mountain conservation planning Process

All project datasets and GIS toolkit applications were delivered to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Asheville office. The datasets are hosted on SAHC’s geospatial data server. SAHC will serve as the one-stop repository for all things “Roan Highlands” in the region.

Consistent with plans:

Habitat Conservation Plan
Forest Plan
Species Recovery Plan
Federal Land Management Plan
Land Trust Strategic Conservation Plan
Nature Conservancy Ecoregional Plan
State Wildlife Action Plan

Targeted habitats:

    • Aquatic
      • Lakes and Ponds
      • Rivers and Streams
    • Forests and Woodlands
      • Conifer Forests
      • Deciduous Forests and Woodlands
      • Mixed Hardwoods and Conifer
    • Shrublands and Grasslands
      • Alpine and Subalpine Habitats (Meadows, Parklands and Shrublands)
    • Special Types
      • Caves and Subterranean
      • Cliff and Canyon
    • Wetlands and Riparian Habitats
      • Forested or Shrub Wetlands and Swamps
      • Marshes, Bogs and Emergent Wetlands
      • Montane Riparian Forests and Shrublands

Targeted species were not provided for this project.


Project Actions
Develop a voluntary conservation plan Show/Hide details
Education Show/Hide details


Direct Funding
Wildlife Conservation Society (Non-Governmental Organization) Show/Hide details
Open Space Institute (Non-Governmental Organization) Show/Hide details


Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   Yes

Please describe your monitoring activity.

SAHC will continue to work with the GIS Toolkit and regional NGOs. Acquisition of conservation lands and use of data in long term county planning will mark success.

What lessons have been learned and/or what suggestions do you have for similar activities?

Seamless regional ecological systems layers from the USGS GAP program can play a crucial role in addressing defeciences between state SWAP geospatial products.

Regional conservation NGOs or planning offices play a vital role in data managment and training for low resource county organizations.

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Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy
(Non-Governmental Organization)

Primary Contact

Carl Silverstein  (Executive Director)
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
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  • Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
  • Open Space Institute
  • A Carroll GIS

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