What is a Special Site?

Special sites on your property can be mapped on the MyLandPlan Tool.

Forest of Recognized Importance (FORI) vs. Special Site

FORIs and Special Sites share similarities in that they recognize unique biological, geological, and/or historical features. However, they differ in terms of scale. FORIs hold global, national, or regional significance and are evaluated at the landscape level, while Special Sites hold local or personal significance and are evaluated at the stand or sub-stand level.

Here are some examples to put the difference of scale in context:

  • A vernal pool (Special Site) vs. Yellowstone (FORI)
  • A family cemetery (Special Site) vs. a National Battleground (FORI)

Do you have any special sites on your land?

Personal sites can be designated for sentimental reasons.  It can be a pretty piece of your woods that your parents or grandparents cherished, or one you and your family hold dear—any place you want to keep just the way it is.

Historical and archaeological sites offer a tangible connection to history. They may be the site of an historical event—a Civil War battlefield, for example—or contain artifacts from the past, such as tools, weapons or remnants of old buildings or roads.  

Cultural sites can include historical or archaeological elements, but are also important from a cultural, social or religious perspective. American Indian ceremonial or burial sites, traditional villages, or fishing and hunting grounds can all be valuable cultural resources. So can scatters of broken pottery, arrowheads, shells and bone. Some of these cultural resources are thousands of years old and are protected by law.

Geological, biological and ecological sites have rare or valuable natural features.  An outcropping of a rare mineral or rock or an unusual biological community, such as a stand of rare trees or a pitcher plant bog, have special ecological value and warrant extra care.

Please note that just because a feature is old, does not mean that it warrants special site designation. There are criteria related to significance, age and integrity that are used for special sites of historical, social or cultural value. For more information on the identification of historic special sites, please see the 2015-2020 ATFS Standards and Guidance.

Why should I preserve these special sites? 


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