Using PHS Data: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What fish and wildlife data is included on the maps?
2. What layers make up the PHS Plus Public View?
3. How do I use the map tools?
4. If no PHS data (points, lines, or polygons) show up in my project area, can I assume there are no priority species or habitats at the site?
5. How valid and accurate is the mapped data?
6. Are there regulations associated with PHS?
7. PHS data showed up in my project area. Now what?
8. How often is PHS data updated?
9. Some of the data shown in the area I have mapped is described in the PHS Results table as "Not a PHS Listed Species, Habitat, or Occurrence." I noticed this when I viewed the PHS Full Record using the PHS Identify navigation tool. What does this mean?
10. The area I have mapped seems to contain data that is indicated as "Sensitive." What do I do?
11. Although I don't see it on PHS on the Web, I think there is a priority habitat or species on a site I have mapped on PHS on the Web. (Or, I think you have mapped something that is no longer on the site.) Can I suggest that you add or remove information in your agency's database?
12. I have more questions about PHS. For example, I want to know how to plan for the species or habitat indicated in my project area, how to use this data to mitigate project impacts, or other general questions. Who can I talk to?
13. What's the difference between this tool and SalmonScape?
14. I've tried this web tool but I prefer to get digital data, a color map and/or detailed report directly from WDFW. Can I do that?
15. How can I find out the latitude and longitude of the location I'm interested in?
16. Is there a data dictionary to describe the attribute fields I see in the Identify screen?
17. Is there a data dictionary to describe the attribute fields I see in the Parcel Identify screen?

1. What fish and wildlife data is included on the maps?

The web-based maps include all species and habitats on the Priority Habitats and Species List (PHS List), as well as some additional fish and wildlife information. The PHS List is maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It includes all State-listed (Endangered, Threatened, and Sensitive) and Candidate species, vulnerable aggregations of species (such as seabird concentrations, shellfish beds, and heron rookeries), and species of recreational, commercial, and/or Tribal importance that are vulnerable to habitat changes. Federally-listed species are also displayed. In addition to priority species from the PHS List, priority habitats are also mapped. Priority habitats are habitat types or elements with unique or significant value to a diverse assemblage of species. A priority habitat may consist of a unique vegetation type (e.g., shrub-steppe) or dominant plant species (e.g., juniper savannah), a described successional stage (e.g., old-growth forest), or a specific habitat feature (e.g., cliffs).

In addition to species and habitats on the PHS List, we map the known locations of potentially vulnerable species where their status is still being evaluated by the Department ("Monitor" species). We also include many species that have been identified as "Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)" in the state's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. You can tell which species on your map are PHS listed species, Monitor species, and/or SGCN by using the Identify tool.

The map tool also provides information on some non-PHS species, including potentially vulnerable species where their status is still being evaluated by the department. Using the map tool, users can determine which data is important to consider for a project or specific interests.

2. What layers make up the PHS Plus Public View?

The PHS Plus Public View consists of three layers: points, lines, and polygons. There are two options for viewing this information, "PHS Plus Public View (Show Masked Data)" showing the non-sensitive and masked sensitive information, and "PHS Plus Public View (Hide Masked Data)" showing only the non-sensitive information. Species and habitat information identified as sensitive according to WDFW Policy 5210 has been generalized to the section, quarter township, or township level (see FAQ #10 for a definition of "sensitive"). Non-sensitive species and habitat information is shown as mapped. The point, line, and polygon layers includes more than twenty datasets documenting the locations of important wildlife resources. The datasets are merged together in order to simplify symbology of the map.

3. How do I use the map tools?

The base map layers that appear along the bottom of the map, navigation tools that appear at the top of the map, and locator tools that appear on the left side of the map, which appear along the top of the map, are described in detail on the Help Page.

4. If no PHS data (points, lines, or polygons) show up in my project area, can I assume there are no priority species or habitats at the site?

Not necessarily. First, not all PHS habitats are mapped in the system. For example, some wide-ranging habitat types and habitat elements, including riparian, nearshore, in-stream, and snags and logs are not mapped throughout the state, but may exist on your site. For these unmapped habitats, the habitat definition in the PHS List should be used to guide field investigations to determine their presence at a given location.

For all other PHS data, points, lines and polygons are mapped only when occurrences of these species or habitats have been observed in the field. However, it is important to note that priority species or priority habitats may occur in areas not currently known to WDFW, or in areas for which comprehensive surveys have not been conducted. We strongly recommend site-specific surveys to rule out the presence of priority habitats or species on individual sites.

5. How valid and accurate is the mapped data?

Given that WDFW's data has been verified by professional fish and wildlife biologists and quality control is provided by WDFW data stewards, all the data is valid. Mapping protocols for each type of data are followed. Location accuracy (e.g., how close is the "point" on the map to the actual nest site on the ground) varies widely and may be up to a mile off. Information is available in the PHS results table for a particular point, line, or polygon. Click on a point, line or polygon the Identify tool to see what the location accuracy is.

Although mapped PHS data is useful for determining the general extents of priority species or habitats, for site planning a more detailed field-based map may need to be developed for a project proposal. PHS map data is meant to serve as a starting point for the identification of priority habitats and species. It is not meant to replace or preempt more detailed field-based, site-level mapping when there is evidence that a proposed project may affect important ecological features.

6. Are there regulations associated with PHS?

There are no state "PHS regulations". All of WDFW's PHS tools, including PHS data, the PHS List, and PHS management recommendations are provided as informational resources. WDFW's management recommendations are often used by local governments as well as others engaged in planning and conservation projects. Although WDFW strongly recommends the use of our PHS information to guide projects likely to affect important fish and wildlife resources, these tools are not regulatory.

Many cities and counties, federal and state agencies, and other organizations require that PHS data be reviewed when evaluating projects, determining grant eligibility, or when reviewing permit applications. Projects affecting Priority Habitats and Species may be subject to specific local, state, or federal regulatory requirements. For example, some Priority Species are also listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and subject to federal regulations meant to ensure that land use activities do not compromise the recovery of a listed species. Several Priority Species are subject to state Forest Practices rules. Many are subject to state hunting, fishing, and scientific collection regulations. State and federal law protects many species from harassment, killing, and harm.

7. PHS data showed up in my project area. Now what?

WDFW publishes non-regulatory PHS Management Recommendations to help assist landowners, managers and others to conduct land use activities in a manner that incorporates the needs of fish and wildlife. These management recommendations can be a useful guide for making decisions when a specific priority habitat or species is on or near your projects area. Recovery plans or game management plans for particular species may also provide useful information. PHS on the Web provides you with direct links to management recommendations when you click on a point, line, or polygon. You should also check with your permit authority (e.g., city or county) to determine what local rules may be in place that affect projects where priority habitats and species occur.

8. How often is PHS data updated?

PHS on the Web is updated weekly to capture new information that may be added to the databases that inform the maps (e.g., when a new observation is verified and submitted). WDFW also conducts comprehensive updates of mapped PHS data for each county in the state every three years.

9. Some of the data shown in the area I have mapped is described in the PHS Results table as "Not a PHS Listed Species, Habitat, or Occurrence." I noticed this when I viewed the PHS Full Record using the PHS Identify navigation tool. What does this mean?

Most of the data shown on the web maps is limited to species and habitats found on the PHS List. However, some of the databases that "feed" PHS on the Web include observations of non-PHS species or habitats. So the user can tell the difference between PHS and non-PHS data, we include this information in the "Full Record" for each species or habitat. Those records indicated as "Not a PHS Listed Species, Habitat, or Occurrence" are provided as a courtesy, because some PHS users in the past have requested information on non-PHS species, such as Monitor species (see Question #1).

10. The area I have mapped seems to contain data that is indicated as "Sensitive." What do I do?

Some fish and wildlife data is designated as "sensitive" by WDFW, due to an increased risk of human interference (e.g., illegal collecting). The location information for this sensitive data is "masked" to a certain level of resolution (e.g., a township or section) so that not everyone can see the exact location of the data on the web. If you are a Tribe, researcher affiliated with an accredited college or university, a private landowner ( seeking information for your own land), or another party with permission from the landowner; or an agent of the above parties (e.g., consultant, realtor, etc.) then you may be eligible to view this sensitive data. If after seeing that sensitive data may be in or near your project area, and you think there is a likelihood that this species or habitat may be impacted by your project, you will want to fill out a Habitats and Species Order Form at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/phs/maps_data/ and submit it to WDFW as instructed. It may take up to eight weeks fill this request, and a fee is charged. If you need help deciding whether you should request the sensitive data, you may want to contact a WDFW biologist familiar with your project area by contacting the WDFW regional office closest to your project site (see http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/index.html).

Please note that sensitive data is not synonymous with the term "sensitive species" listing status. Sensitive data is defined in RCW 42.56.430. Sensitive species are defines in WAC 232-12-011 as any wildlife species likely to become endangered or threatened. For example, a Peregrine falcon is a sensitive species, but the data for Peregrine falcon nest sites and habitat areas are not considered sensitive and are shown on PHS on the Web.

11. Although I don't see it on PHS on the Web, I think there is a priority habitat or species on a site I have mapped on PHS on the Web. (Or, I think you have mapped something that is no longer on the site.) Can I suggest that you add or remove information in your agency's database?

PHS data serve as a starting point for mapping priority habitats and species, providing the most complete, up-to-date information WDFW has on the distribution and extent of these resources across the landscape. However, not all occurrences of priority habitats and species are depicted in the maps because our best scientific information is always considered incomplete and natural systems are ever-changing. Requests will be considered and evaluated as time and resources permit.

To suggest a new observation be added to the PHS database, you may submit information on an observed priority habitat or species. Contact your regional office (http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/index.html) and ask to speak to the PHS/GMA biologist. Leave your contact information, the type and location of the species or habitat, and the last time you observed it at that location. You will be contacted by one of our database stewards for more information. Species or habitat information submitted must meet definitions described in the PHS List. WDFW biologists will review the information for accuracy and quality before adding it to the database. This may take six months or more because our resources for responding to individual requests to add or remove data are very limited.

If you beleive that no occurrence exists where one is mapped, first contact your regional WDFW office (http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/index.html) to discuss the site with a biologist. Note that many species occurrences are seasonal in nature, and may not be observable all times of the year. Our resources are very limited for site visits. You will need to submit written information about why you think the mapping is inaccurate.

12. I have more questions about PHS. For example, I want to know how to plan for the species or habitat indicated in my project area, how to use this data to mitigate project impacts, or other general questions. Who can I talk to?

Most technical questions about using of PHS on the Web can be answered using the Help page and this FAQ page. For more general PHS questions or questions related to using PHS data in land use planning and projects affecting fish and wildlife species, you may e-mail your question to planningforwildlife@dfw.wa.gov. Staff will answer your question or connect you with the appropriate biologist who may be the best local expert to discuss with you the species or habitat you are interested in. It may take a week or so to receive a response.

13. What's the difference between this tool and Salmonscape?

PHS On The Web is a scoping tool to find out if there are Priority Habitats and Species in your project area and whether or not you need to request more detailed information. Salmonscape has more reports and information about the individual salmonid stocks and does not include mammals, birds, and shellfish.

14. I've tried this web tool but I prefer to get digital data, a color map and/or detailed report directly from WDFW. Can I do that?

Yes! You may request digital data, hard copy maps and reports by using our standard data request process. There is a wait time of up to eight weeks to receive requested data, and a fee will be charged. For questions about this process, contact our data request line at (360) 902-2543.

15. How can I find out the latitude and longitude of the location I'm interested in?

The latitude and longitude is shown in the upper left portion of the map display area. It changes in relation to the location of the pointer tool as you move your mouse. Also, the latitude and longitude of the point where you click to identify PHS data or a parcel is shown on the PHS and Parcel identify screens.

16. Is there a data dictionary to describe the attribute fields I see in the PHS Identify screen or the Detailed Report?

Yes, see below for a brief description of the attribute fields.

Occurrence Name - The common name associated with the species or habitat occurrence.
Scientific Name - The scientific name (genus/species) associated with the species. Habitats will be left blank.
Priority Area - The reasons (based on the PHS List) for mapping the occurrence of the species or habitat.
Display Resolution - How the data is displayed on the map. "As Mapped" means the occurrence is shown as it was mapped. "Section", "Quarter Township", and "Township" refers to the scale of the generalization for a sensitive species or habitat.
Feature Type (Geometry Type) - Whether the feature is mapped as an area, line, or point.
Federal Status - The Federal listing of the species.
State Status - The State Species of Concern listing for the species.
SGCN - "Y" means the species is on the list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need. "N" means it is not on the SGCN list.
PHS Listing Status - Whether or not the species or habitat is on the PHS List (follow the link to look up species listing status).
Source Date - Date of the observation in the field or the date of the mapping of the observation.
Source Dataset - Name of the dataset where the occurrence originated.
Source Record - Unique identifier to link the occurrence back to the source dataset.
Source Entity - The agency, organization, or other source of the occurrence observation.
Source Name - The name of the observer of the occurrence.
Accuracy - Locational accuracy of the occurrence.
Sensitive Data - Describes whether or not the occurrence is identified as sensitive per WDFW Policy 5210 and RCW 42.56.430.
Sitename - The name of the location where the occurrence was observed.
Mgmt Recommendations - URL link to PHS management recommendations, recovery plans, or other information
More Info - URL link to additional information about this occurrence.
Notes - Brief description of the species or habitat, or of their locations.

17. Is there a data dictionary to describe the attribute fields I see in the Parcel Identify screen?

Yes, see below for a brief description of the attribute fields.

Parcel Number - Unique identifier for each parcel.
Data Provider - The county or agency that provided the parcel information to the Washington State Parcel Database.