Although the authors acknowledge that recent attention has been paid to the, "strengthening of rural communities to make them more economically and environmentally resilient," they argue that what is missing from the sustainability and smart growth radar are the working landscapes in between rural towns.
By only focusing on the built-up rural areas, Epstein and Benfield note that planners and sustainability advocates miss the large swath of land under direct threat. "[T]he open, working lands around the town are often under direct threat or assault by the likes of debilitating and sprawling low density development even in the light of overall population loss (as in Pennsylvania), or by industries (such as mining or energy development) that sacrifice the long-term productive or natural character of a place even if they temporarily pump money into it."
The authors identify a number of proven and emerging strategies to prevent the loss of forest and farm land, but note that the development, coordination, and dispersal of such resources could be served by the involvement of governmental entities such as the innovative federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
"Their work would be strengthened by recognizing equally the importance of sustaining the working lands surrounding those communities that, if lost, will disconnect them from their heritage, culture, and in most places, a substantial portion of their economy."