Does Conservation Development Actually Work?

Emily Wortman-Wunder looks at the effectiveness of conservation development - a popular tool used by planners across the rural West for the purposes of preserving open space.
August 7, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Wortman-Wunder investigates the growing application of conservation development or Land Preservation Subdivision (LPS) ordinances - in which developers are given density bonuses for leaving 40 to 80 percent of a typical rural parcel as open space - which "seem to offer a way for mountain communities to have it all."

With an estimated 10 million acres across the U.S. preserved using conservation development since the 1960s, Wortman-Wunder questions the goals of such practices, and what they achieve. 

For example, Sarah Reed, a conservation biologist with Colorado State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society, found that, "While over a third of the counties [in 11 western states] had regulations that promoted some form of conservation development, many did so in ways unlikely to preserve critical wildlife habitat or other natural values. Few promoted land stewardship, or ensured that open space parcels were contiguous within or among developments."

Questions also surround the basis for deciding which areas are allowed to be developed and which preserved, management of the conserved land, and lot size. "All of these issues contribute to a growing sense that clustered development is not living up to its promise," writes Wortman-Wunder.


Thanks to Anthony Flint

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Published on Monday, May 28, 2012 in High Country News
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