Nevada rolls out Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

NVCHAT Cooperative effort of 16 Western states designed to help industry, conservation groups and public protect environment, aid project planning

LAS VEGAS. The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) today launched the Nevada Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (NVCHAT), a web-based planning tool that makes wildlife information available to the public in an easily accessible and user-friendly map interface.

NVCHAT was developed in coordination with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) west-wide CHAT, a cooperative effort of 16 western states to provide the public and industry a high-level overview of "crucial habitat" across the west. Development of the west-wide CHAT began in 2010 supported by a grant from the Department of Energy. Like Nevada, many other western states have developed their own state-specific CHATs.

"NVCHAT will help users in the pre-planning of energy corridors and transmission routes, or in comparing fish and wildlife habitat by establishing a common starting point across the state for the intersection of development and wildlife," said Laura Richards, NDOW’s Wildlife Diversity Chief and member of the WGA Wildlife Council. "The tool is designed to enable industry to reduce time, costs, conflicts and surprises while helping government agencies ensure wildlife values are better incorporated into land use decision making." NVCHAT puts wildlife and wildlife habitat data at users fingertips for initial review of energy, transportation, land use and conservation project planning. NVCHAT allows users to visually explore wildlife distribution information, crucial habitat areas, sensitive species information and other relevant data at the statewide scale. NVCHAT incorporates over 200 data layers representing over 350 species compiled into easy to interpret models for conservation and wildlife resource planning.

The state-specific CHATs are intended to allow easy access to wildlife information for state agency stakeholders so it is considered early in the land use planning process. Although not intended for project-level assessments, state CHATs will provide a greater level of certainly for pre-planning efforts, leading to fewer conflicts while improving outcomes to better incorporate fish and wildlife values into land use decision-making and large-scale conservation projects.

NVCHAT is non-regulatory and represents landscape-level analysis. For project-level review, additional information, data and state coordination is necessary.

CHATs utilize landscape-level mapping to show crucial wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, and indentify areas that warrant more fine scale analysis. CHATs help to promote the conservation objectives of each state wildlife agency, and give the public access to important wildlife information for use in proactive planning and decision-making processes. The state-level CHATs and the Western Governors’ CHAT will include on-going monitoring and updating to maintain relevancy.

An interdisciplinary team of nearly 20 NDOW biologists and GIS staff developed the state CHAT with close coordination and participation by several staff members of the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.

"We are proud to be a part of this innovative, collaborative project led by the WGA," said Richards. "We encourage widespread use of NVCHAT and the WGA west-wide CHAT to better inform energy, transportation and land use planning while providing for healthy and productive landscapes."

Log on to NVCHAT at: and the WGA west-wide CHAT at:

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at

Contact: Laura Richards

Phone: (775) 688-1996