NVCHAT Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are NVCHAT and the Western Governors’ CHAT?

A: NVCHAT stands for Nevada Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool and is Nevada’s component of the Western Governors’ Association Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, or CHAT, network. The CHAT network is a system of online maps and applications that displays crucial wildlife habitat information based upon commonly agreed upon definitions developed by the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council. The Western Governors’ Association provides access to CHAT information for 16 western states, including Nevada, through the west-wide CHAT website. Nevada provides access to Nevada-specific CHAT information, as well as other data layers, through the NVCHAT website.

Q: What is the origin of NVCHAT project?

A: To help preserve the wildlife heritage and promote the local economies of communities across the West, the governors of the western states asked the Western Governors’ Association in 2007 to examine how state wildlife agencies could be more collaborative and innovative as they provide wildlife species and habitat information to their various stakeholders, including federal and state agencies, local and tribal governments, conservation organizations, industry, and private landowners. As a result, the Western Governors established the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council tasked with indentifying key wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West and to make that information publically available. NVCHAT is the solution designed and implemented as part of Nevada’s contribution to fulfilling the Western Governors’ vision.

Q: What is the purpose of the NVCHAT project?

A: NVCHAT, and the CHAT project as a whole, is intended to provide a high-level, coarse-scale analysis of crucial wildlife habitat across the West. This information is intended for use during the early stages of the planning process, including the “macro-siting” of land use development projects, in Nevada and other western states. NVCHAT and the other CHAT projects provide a “heads-up” about the presence of crucial wildlife habitat and the expected presence of important wildlife resources on the landscape.

NVCHAT is not a substitute for on-the-ground surveys or consultation with resource management agencies. NVCHAT and the other CHAT projects are intended to increase the efficiency and predictability of formal planning efforts by integrating wildlife resource information into the planning process earlier than previously possible.

Q: How does NVCHAT work with CHAT projects in other states?

A: The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council established common definitions and issued guidelines to help each state prioritize wildlife habitat within its boundaries to meet specific conservation criteria. These guidelines and criteria recognized that individual states needed the flexibility to address the different species, conservation needs, and regulatory environments found within their own states to prioritize wildlife resources and habitats as needed, while providing the framework for consistent and compatible results across all participating western states. As a result, NVCHAT provides information relevant to the specific wildlife and resource management priorities here in Nevada in the same manner that other states provide information relevant to their own priorities, resulting in a consistent map of crucial wildlife habitat across the west.

Q: Is NVCHAT a regulatory tool?

A: No. NVCHAT, and the other CHATs, are non-regulatory and are not legally binding in any way. NVCHAT simply provides planners and the public access to wildlife resource and habitat information at the landscape scale for use in initial project assessment and pre-planning. The goal of the CHAT project, including NVCHAT, is to incorporate wildlife and habitat priorities earlier in the planning process to avoid potential surprises and ensuring wildlife values are included in the discussion of land use development and conservation planning.

Q: Does NVCHAT make any lands off limits to development?

A: No. NVCHAT is based on biological data and is not biased in favor of or against any particular form of land use development. State wildlife agencies serve several different “customers” – from other government entities to outdoors enthusiasts, conservation advocates and business and industry groups. NVCHAT is a way for the Department to provide all stakeholders with credible, consistent, and accurate information for use in the planning and decision making process.

Q: As a private landowner, should I be concerned that my property shows up as crucial habitat on one of these maps?

A: No. NVCHAT is a tool intended to guide planning of large scale, multi-state programs like electrical transmission lines and would not impose designations or identify species occurrences at the individual landowner scale. Furthermore, NVCHAT will not directly interfere with any conservation easements, lease arrangements or other optional land-use programs you currently exercise, nor will it directly affect land swaps or other existing partnerships you may participate in with government agencies, nonprofit organizations or other entities.

Q: Will NVCHAT be used to guide federal decisions under the Endangered Species Act?

A: NVCHAT does not provide species-specific information. However, the goal of NVCHAT, and the CHAT project as a whole, is to integrate wildlife and habitat information in the land development planning process in an effort to plan for and reduce long-term impacts to wildlife habitat at the landscape scale. The success of this initiative should contribute to the long-term preservation of declining species.

Q: What is the mapping scale of NVCHAT?

A: NVCHAT provides information aggregated to one square-mile mapping units. These mapping units are based upon a grid of random hexagons to ensure that crucial habitat data is not biased by land ownership parcels or the public land survey system.

Q: Why doesn’t the map of crucial habitat in Nevada match the map of crucial habitat in neighboring states?

A: The CHAT project, including NVCHAT, is based upon a framework that promotes flexibility as well as consistency from state to state. The map of crucial habitat for a given state is based upon a set of guidelines that are the same for all states, but are implemented differently within individual states based upon the specific species, conservation priorities, regulatory environments, and data availability of those states. A byproduct of allowing that level of flexibility is a regional map that is not perfectly seamless. However, by identifying those areas that are not perfectly “edge-matched”, the CHAT project provides wildlife agencies with the understanding of how wildlife resources are managed across state lines and promotes interstate collaboration to improve habitat and resource management regardless of political boundaries.

Q: What information is included from outside of the Department, and how does new information get considered in future versions of the crucial habitat analysis?

A: Under guidance of the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council, technical experts from each state’s wildlife agency considered any datasets that might be relevant to the crucial habitat analysis. State-specific datasets (i.e. data from a state agency) were evaluated within individual states and regional datasets were evaluated by the technical teams. Regional datasets were recommended if they provided consistent information across the West, had been vetted and utilized by the wildlife management community at large, and were readily available to the public.

If you are aware of datasets that should be included or have concerns about the inclusion of existing datasets, please provide your feedback to nvchat@ndow.org.

Q: What is the process for updates to NVCHAT?

A: NVCHAT is intended to be a dynamic and living resource that will provide the most current and accurate information available to the public. To that end, NVCHAT will be updated at least annually with new crucial habitat maps developed using the best available input data as ongoing field work continues and incorporating new and changing management priorities as they emerge. Updates to NVCHAT are also expected to include access to new data layers and analysis functionality as work continues to improve the system.

For specific questions on the crucial habitat analysis process or data layers please see the Crucial Habitat page.