Land Use Management and
Communities across the nation are struggling
to accommodate various issues arising from
population increase and economic development.
In recent years, the conversion of crop,
range, and forest lands to housing, urban,
and other non-agricultural uses has been
rising at an alarming rate. Many uncoordinated
development decisions have resulted in an
unnecessarily rapid conversion of these lands.
Once these lands are developed, they can
no longer produce food, fiber, timber, and
other forestry products, as well as other
natural amenities, mitigate flooding, and
recharge groundwater. Tensions run high between
urban and agricultural communities with competing
water needs. Imprudent land uses, such as
development on floodplains, steep slopes,
and fire-prone areas, have escalated taxpayers'
expense in disaster relief when floods, mudslides,
and wildfires occur.
In addition, developed land requires more
infrastructure and public services—
such as roads, schools, health care, police and fire protection, and water
treatment facilities—than that of agricultural production. The ratio
of public expenditures to the revenues is much higher in urban and suburban
communities than in rural communities.
Meanwhile, conflicts are intense and lawsuits
are filed when urban dwellers complain about
such things as odor, dust, and noise resulting
from agricultural production. A dichotomy
surfaces as Americans move to suburban settings
seeking “country living. ” Haphazard
development changes the landscape and causes
environmental and ecological degradation.
Sustainable communities must integrate agricultural
production and economic development. They
incorporate in their housing developments
economic, social, and cultural characteristics
that are in harmony with the environment.
Sustainable communities can increase the
quality of life for both urban and rural
dwellers, minimize conflict, make the most
of natural amenities, and ensure long-term
community economic vitality.
NIFA supports and collaborates with the Northeast
Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD) to
address land use issues. NERCRD provides
educational materials, workshops, and conferences
to planners, county commissioners, and
In addition, NIFA partners with researchers
and educators at many land-grant universities
to understand the economic factors behind
urban sprawl, evaluate the fiscal and environmental
consequences of urban sprawl, investigate
the implications of government policy on
public and private lands, and assess the
economic benefits of protecting farm and
ranch land. Just to name a few examples:
State University Land Use Area of Expertise
Team has a statewide network to build
capacity for, and facilitate, community-based
land use education and decisionmaking.
State University Land Use Team addresses
a breadth and depth of land use issues
including community visioning, watershed
and natural areas protection, and land
use policy development.
- Community Affairs and Land Use Education
Program at the Pennsylvania
State University has information related
to state and local laws and regulations,
cost of community services, economic impact
analysis, good neighbor relations, and
Extension Land Use Team offers educational
materials and programs to address land
use issues in Indiana.
of Wisconsin Center for Land Use Education takes
a team-based approach to provide community
planning tools and educational information.
- The Wyoming
Open Spaces Initiative at the University
of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute for
the Environment and Natural Resources
provides research and educational information
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