The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) offers a tool for incorporating fish and wildlife habitat information into county land use planning. The Local Habitat Assessment (LHA) is a methodology to map current habitat conditions at a variety of scales. The LHA combines regional biodiversity priorities with local indicators of habitat condition, such as land conversion, road density, and fish and wildlife priority areas. This approach is designed to aid land use planning across an entire county, within a watershed, or within a smaller, sub-area. The LHA can help identify key areas for conservation within a watershed, inform comprehensive planning and zoning decisions, help to establish open space networks and maintain habitat connectivity, and guide acquisition, easement incentive programs.
The LHA uses data from a variety of sources, including Ecoregional Assessments, WDFW Priority Habitats and Species Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Program, statewide stream layers, land cover, state and county road layers, and other sources of scientific information.
The LHA is a Geographic Information System (GIS) procedure that combines existing data from four maps that represent: (1) regional biodiversity priorities, (2) local priority habitat areas, (3) land conversion, and (4) road density. Areas (i.e., pixels) within each of the four maps are scored from 1 to 10 on their relative habitat condition or contribution to biodiversity. The four maps are then combined in GIS and added together. Areas that are weighted most heavily for all layers represent the best habitat condition within the county or watershed. This model can be applied at a variety of scales, from countywide to a sub-area. At smaller scales, such as within a watershed, more detailed information about local wildlife needs is also applied.
The LHA resembles a topographic map, where peaks and valleys represent habitat condition. In the example to the right, areas in good condition are colored dark green, grading to dark purple for areas in poor habitat condition.
For more information about this tool, please contact:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia, WA 98501-1091