Concern over the fate of plant and animal species throughout the world has accelerated over recent decades. Habitat loss is considered the main culprit in reducing many species' abundance and range, leading to numerous efforts to plan and manage habitat preservation. Our work uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and modeling to define a spatially explicit analysis of habitat value, using the San Joaquin Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) of California (USA) as an example. Over the last 30 years, many field studies and surveys have enhanced our knowledge of the life history, behavior, and needs of the kit fox, which has been proposed as an umbrella or indicator species for grassland habitat in the San Joaquin Valley of California. There has yet been no attempt to convert much of this field knowledge into a model of spatial habitat value useful for planning purposes. This is a significant omission given the importance and visibility of the imperiled kit fox and increasing trends toward spatially explicit modeling and planning. In this paper we apply data from northern California to derive a small-cell GIS raster of habitat value for the kit fox that incorporates both intrinsic habitat quality and neighborhood context, as well the effects of barriers such as roads. Such a product is a useful basis for assessing the presence and amounts of good (and poor) quality habitat and for eventually constructing GIS representations of viable animal territories that could be included in future reserves. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.