Sensitive Species Project Review Areas (SSPRA)

Sensitive Species Project Review Areas or SSPRA is a digital map data layer which primarily represents the general locations of documented rare, threatened and endangered species. Created and updated by staff of the Wildlife and Heritage Service, this data layer contains buffered polygons and does not delineate or strictly represent habitats of threatened and endangered species. The data layer incorporates various types of regulated areas under the Critical Area Criteria and other areas of concern statewide, including: Natural Heritage Areas, Listed Species Sites, Other or Locally Significant Habitat Areas, Colonial Waterbird Sites, Nontidal Wetlands of Special State Concern, and Geographic Areas of Particular Concern.

Therefore, this data layer provides an overview of nearly all state-regulated and designated areas involving sensitive and listed species. However, it does not supersede, and should not be used instead of, the State's Nontidal Wetlands Guidance maps.

The SSPRA data were originally created for county planning & zoning offices and various units within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to assist in compliance with the Economic Growth, Resource Protection and Planning Act of 1992 and to aid in streamlining the process of reviewing proposed projects for potential impacts to rare, threatened and endangered species and other regulated resources within the purview of the Wildlife and Heritage Service. These data may not be suitable for other uses, such as protection planning or site acquisition selection. Please consult with the Wildlife and Heritage Service (see contact below) to determine the availability of other information, such as the Biodiversity Conservation Network (BioNet) data, for such purposes.

The polygons which comprise the SSPRA are based upon data entered into the information systems of the Wildlife and Heritage Service. Although this layer contains the most complete single source of data on Maryland's rare, threatened, and endangered species and significant natural communities, it does not represent an exhaustive nor comprehensive inventory of these environmental elements throughout the state.

Only current field surveys by qualified biologists can verify the presence or absence of such elements. Therefore, the SSPRA data is meant to be used only for guidance and should not be considered the final authority on the presence or absence of threatened or endangered species or of significant natural communities at any given location.

The SSPRA data layer contains dynamic information. Staff of the Wildlife and Heritage Service conduct field surveys and gather new information throughout the year. Thus, the SSPRA data layer will be revised regularly to incorporate the new information. As updates become available, the previous version of the SSPRA data layer shall be considered obsolete.

Creation of SSPRA involved merging numerous data layers, some of which were created as statewide coverages. Others were created over a 1:24000 7.5 minute quadrangle base map. No attempt to edge-match between quadrangles was made for the latter. Because of this and the fact that the layer does not represent habitats of sensitive species, the polygon boundaries may appear to be arbitrary.

The metadata which accompanies the product provides further detailed information on the processing steps involved in data creation, as well as information on use constraints, data quality, and other aspects of the data.

A digital copy of the Sensitive Species Project Review Areas data layer is available under the “Living Resources” files on department’s GIS data download site:  To view the data without downloading it, go to Merlin Online, Maryland Department of Natural Resource's interactive mapping website. Click on the “Interactive Mapper” tab near the top, then click on the “Living Resources” box in the data legend to turn on this theme. Click on the triangle next to this name to individually turn off/on all layers within the “Living Resources” theme. Instructions for using this website are on the “Help” tab.

The department contact for distribution of the data is Kevin Coyne, who can be reached at 410-260-8985. Toll-free in Maryland: 1-877-620-8DNR, Ext. 8985. TTY Users, Please use Maryland Relay.

For questions regarding the content of the data layer or suitability of the data for certain purposes, contact Lynn Davidson, Wildlife and Heritage Service at 410-260-8563. Toll-free in Maryland: 1-877-620-8DNR, Ext. 8563. TTY Users, please use Maryland Relay.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife and Heritage Service
February 27, 2003; updated September 10, 2019