New Study Reveals Importance of Conserving Unbuilt Land

A new study mandated by the federal Resources Planning Act predicts that developed land in the U.S. will increase by 41 percent in the next five decades. Such development could have dramatic impacts on our natural resources and ecosystems.

2 minute read

January 9, 2013, 5:00 AM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


Kaid Benfield discusses the findings of a study conducted by scientists at the US Forest Service and partners at universities, non-profits and other agencies. Their predictions show that the consequences of continued expansion of urban and developed land could have monumental impacts on our natural resources, including the loss of up to 34 million acres of forested land and increased water shortages. 

According to Benfield, key themes from the findings include:

  1. Land development will continue to threaten the integrity of natural ecosystems;
  2. Climate change will alter natural ecosystems and affect their ability to provide goods and services;
  3. Competition for goods and services from natural ecosystems will increase;
  4. Geographic variation will require regional and local strategies to address resource management issues.

"As troubling as the trends and forecasts are for forests and farms lost to development, it does not have to be this way.  We need to stop the madness.  Market preferences are now trending in favor of closer-in, more walkable living.  Let’s build future development that responds, conserving the landscape in the process," concludes Benfield, who details some tactics available for achieving such a goal.

Hazel Borys sounds a similar note in discussing the 41 million acres of rural land that the US lost to development from 1982 to 2007, the need to reduce this rate of development, and what several ogranizations and local governments are doing to preserve rural lands.

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