Frequently Asked Questions

What terms are used to describe natural areas?
There are a number of agency-specific designations for natural areas listed with state heritage programs.  These include:

Agency Term for Natural Area
Bureau of Land Management Area of Critical Environmental Concern; Research Natural Area; Outstanding Natural Area.
Columbia Land Trust Preserve
National Park Service Research Natural Area
OR Dept of Fish and Wildlife State Natural Area
OR Dept of State Lands State Natural Area
OR Parks and Recreation Dept State Natural Area
Portland City Metro Metro Natural Area
The Nature Conservancy Preserve
US Army Research Natural Area
US Army Corps of Engineers Research Natural Area
US Department of Energy Research Natural Area
US Fish and Wildlife Service Research Natural Area
US Forest Service Research Natural Area
WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife Natural Area Preserve; Natural Resource Conservation Area
WA Dept of Natural Resources Natural Area Preserve; Natural Resource Conservation Area
WA State Parks Natural Area Preserve
WA State University Biological Study Area

How can I help get a new natural area established?
The best place to begin is to look at state heritage plans for Oregon and Washington to see if the area of interest could help fill ecological gaps within the current network.    The contacts listed on these web pages (including PNW interagency committee members) may be able to help decide whether formal establishment and recognition as a natural area is warranted.  In some case, agencies may decide that an area deserves some level of protection but designation as a natural area may not be the appropriate means to achieve this protection.  This may be the case for sites with obvious human influences, very small sites, or sites that are already well represented in the current network.  Please visit our Management page for agency-specific processes used to designate new natural areas. 

Who is the best contact for a specific natural area?
Please visit our Contacts page for the agency-specific contact.

How do I get permission to do research on a natural area?
Please visit our Research Use page which outlines the process for getting permission to do research for several of the network agencies. 

How can I help the natural areas network?
Traditional involvement with natural areas has been through scientific study and educational activities.  However, there are many additional opportunities to participate and the need is great. Agencies often allocate minimal resources to stewardship of natural areas and could use assistance with the following types of activities:

  • Site visits to document current conditions (stewardship monitoring)
  • Monitoring and control of aggressive non-native plant species
  • Inventory birds, wildflowers, butterflies or other natural features
  • Assist with educational activities (e.g. lead a field trip)

If you or your group is interested in pursuing any of these activities, please contact the appropriate agency staff for the natural area of interest.