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Smart Growth and Open Space Conservation

Like development, conservation can be either planned or haphazard. To help communities plan their preservation efforts, EPA will work with national, regional, and local partners to provide the tools and resources needed to identify and prioritize areas to achieve smart conservation. The implementation of locally based, long-term open space conservation plans are a critical element in achieving smart growth. Well-managed open space programs protect the natural green infrastructure of a place, providing opportunities for recreation, preserving important environmental and ecological functions, and enhancing community quality of life.

EPA is supportive of ongoing local and state conservation efforts. From 1998 to 2005, voters approved $63 billion in funding for open space preservation in local and state referenda (see the Trust for Public Land's LandVote Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimerdatabase for more information). In many cases, however, communities have passed these bond referendums as a reactive measure to help preserve the "last wetland" or the "last community farm." While a reactive preservation strategy can preserve critical lands, it often does so in a scattershot way, so that conserved lands are fragmented. Small fragments of conserved land have less ecological value as wildlife corridors, provide less access to community members, and have reduced value in directing growth to existing areas than larger parcels connected by corridors. To be proactive, communities need the tools and resources to help them identify critical areas (i.e., large areas of high-quality habitat, corridors, stream buffers, wetlands, etc.) for preservation. By providing needed tools and technical resources, EPA's intent is to help communities become more proactive in conservation planning.

For more information

For more information on this activity, please contact Lynn Richards (richards.lynn@epa.gov) or Lynn Desautels (desautels.lynn@epa.gov) at 202-566-2878.

Useful Resources

Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, Trust for Public Land, 1999. The publication discusses how land conservation helps communities grow smart and protect the bottom line. Chapters include attracting investment, revitalizing cities, boosting tourism, protecting farms and ranches, preventing flood damage, and safeguarding the environment.

The Source Protection Handbook Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, Trust for Public Land, 2005. Based in part on the scientific, economic, and public health justifications for land conservation as a critical strategy for protecting America's drinking water sources and recharge lands, this new book also relies heavily on best practices and case studies from organizations such as TPL and communities across America.

Natural Resource-Based Planning for Watersheds: A Practical Starter Kit Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, NEMO, 2001. This publication from Non-Point Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) is intended to serve as a guide for those wishing to adapt NEMO's methods to their own watersheds. NEMO has found that the two major stumbling blocks to local watershed efforts are an inability to get started and an overload of maps and information. This starter kit is their way of overcoming these twin frustrations, illustrated with examples from their work in the Eightmile River Watershed Project.

Community Resource Inventory Online Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. Sponsored by NEMO, this web site helps communities assess their natural and cultural resources.

Strategic ConservationLink to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. Sponsored by The Conservation Fund, this website provides an introduction to The Fund's strategic conservation services and links to additional resources.

GreenInfrastructure.net Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. Hosted by The Conservation Fund in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, this vehicle provides extensive background information and case studies on green infrastructure approaches to open space protection.

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