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titled Evaluating the potential for Conservation Development: Biophysical, Economic, and Institutional Perspectives

by on November 14, 2011

In the Pejchar et al. article titled Evaluating the potential for Conservation Development: Biophysical, Economic, and Institutional Perspectives the authors propose a method for dealing with the dangers associated with what they call exurban growth of rural sprawl.  Exurban growth or rural sprawl is the term given to the growth seen in relatively low density residential housing on what was previously agricultural or natural land.  This type of growth has accounted for 80% of the development growth in rural areas in the United States. The issue they site is that current conventional development practices are strictly economically based.  Private developers currently aim to plot the maximum amount of homes on the minimum lot size with no regard for the local ecology and natural systems.  This neglect often results in habitat loss and fragmentation and also a loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity, which is obviously something the authors realize is a practice that needs to be abandoned.  Their solution is the method of conservation development defined in the paper as “a form of development that relies on scientific assessments of the ecological importance of a property’s assets to identify what parts of a property should be protected and restored and how the remainder should be developed in a manner compatible with the protection of these assets” (Pejchar et al. 70).  The results of this practice are home closely clustered together on a property while the area of the property most worth protecting is left alone.  On a regional scale conservation planning would also include the inclusion of greenways and contiguous habitats for animals to ensure the ability for regional migration.  In order to implement conservation the authors identify three categories where potential barriers would need to be over come. The first is biophysical in which site selection, housing density, and landscaping are all consideration in preserving biodiversity.  The second is economic issues and being able to ensure the private developers will be able to make a similar profit then before as well as provide tangible examples of benefits to the society. The last are institutional roadblocks including the current land use and zoning laws in many places across the US as well as providing financial incentives in the form of rebates and subsidies to both developers and homebuyers.  At this point the authors recognize how the adoption of conservation development will change the face of development in the US and may be something that citizens are uncomfortable with and will not embrace.  The conclusion of the paper is a call to both environmental entrepreneurs and conservation organizations to begin building these types of communities and work with local governments to change regulations and have “on- the –ground” examples to work from.

How feasible do you think it is to change the trend of people wanting to buy land for their home to living in close proximity to other houses in order to preserve open space?

What are some possible options for keeping the current spatial orientation and still meeting some conservation goals?







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  1. The argument in the article, Evaluating the Potential for Conservation by Pejchar et al, states, “conversion of rural land is likely a greater threat to conservation than either urban or suburban development because of its environmental impact- habitat loss and fragmentation, loss of ecosystem services, and the introduction of exotic species…”(2). Due to the rapid development growth, the environment in terms of the conservation of biodiversity must be reassessed in order to best preserve these native habitats that were previously relatively intact. Pejchar et al. defines conservation development as, “ a potential but rarely realized development strategy that integrates conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services with development”(3). They then apply this approach to three different categorized, biophysical, economic, and institutional.

    I found this very interesting, as it relates to a similar discussion that arose from the article, Stewardship among lifestyle oriented landowners, which ultimately ties into Fred’s question pertaining to the feasibility of changing the trend of the influx of people to rural zones. Both articles recognize that the driving forces behind this influx are, “from deeply held personal and cultural preferences”(Pejchar et al. 2), as many individuals expressed various, “reasons related to their desire for rural lifestyle”(Gill, 10). Ultimately, these articles illustrate contradictory opinions regarding the perceived positive or negative impact residential developments are playing on biological diversity, but they do point out a very interesting perspective. I believe that there is a definite correlation between conservation/land stewardship and economic benefits. As Pejchar et al. stated, “local jurisdictions will need to use incentives to more closely align the private benefits of conservation development with the social goods it provides…”(8). Regardless of the political level in which is directly interacting with these landowners, it seems that the rate of conservation development is directly relates to the individuals interests or values, making this statement problematic. What happens if the individuals’ interests or values cannot be met through these incentives?

  2. Megan Powell permalink

    I like the active approach of this area of study — it aims to solve a problem rathe than just state it. I feel that a lot of articles we’ve read spend the majority of the time explaining the issue at hand which is no doubt important, but the solutions to the issue are payed less attention to and usually only mentioned briefly. That being said, the authors believe that the strategy of “conservation development” will be an improvement compared to ecology-based development. I see how being more conscientious about the way in which you develop a parcel of land is certainly an improvement and I think it is much better than the narrower scope that rural house development seems to have now (only focused on ecological influences). However, the example of conservation development that was the focus in the guest lecture, called “cluster zoning,” did bring up some questions regarding the effectiveness of the new strategy. For example, specifically regarding the cluster zoning approach, will only developing part of the land parcel really keep the integrity of the ecosystem intact? Or will even the smaller area of development still have impacts significant enough to render the cluster zoning ineffective in conserving the landscape? Overall, though, I think the focus on combining the reality of the continuation of home development in our society along with the need/desire to conserve natural landscapes in not only admirable, but also the way of the future.

  3. 242colleencarey permalink

    In regard to the idea of of people changing their trend in buying houses from a house in open space with much land around it to a house in close proximity to other houses in order to preserve space, I think this is a little unrealistic and it might depend on the town or city ones in. As for Boulder, many people are enthusiastic about conservation and are always trying new ways to better the enthronement. So, I think that places like Boulder that are all about conservation would be open to these new trends with open arms. However, people that have a complete disregard for the environment and care about their space and want acres of land just for the sake of it would completely reject what this article stands for.
    Option for keeping the current spacial orientation and still meeting some conservation goals it may be protecting as much land as the conservationists can. Taking a plot of land only used for animals and people can’t invade that area could be an idea. Or just reaching out to communities so they can be aware of the problem; this might not help right away, but in the long run it could.

  4. amygraceaustin permalink

    Similar to Megan, I like that they are proposing a solution instead of just dealing with theory. I’m told this is called praxis. However, I think their form of praxis is unrealistic. The reason many people choose to spend the money on building a home in a rural environment is because they want their home to be away from others. The proposition of clustering the homes close together to conserve the environment around them entirely defeats this purpose.

    My argument is that the notion of an environment is not static. The environment that exists where the house is being built is probably not the site’s original natural state. I’m sure it has been changed and accommodated over time through various seasons of farming, weather patterns, and animal migration. I certainly understand the value of conserving natural habitats for animals, but there are certain economic implications that need to be taken into consideration when proposing development alternatives. It is necessary to look at the field of conservation in a holistic perspective because while animal habitats could be preserved, human social organizations could be negatively impacted. I’m not saying one is more important than the other, it’s just necessary to look at the big picture.

  5. Benjamin N. permalink

    I don’t know how feasable it is to change the trend of people wanting to buy houses out in open space areas. Some people simply want their space and privacy, and unless there are policies completely outlawing it, I don’t think people are going to stop buying up open land to get what they want. I think the best thing we can do in this situation is to make people aware of the consequences of using open space, and make them aware of alternative options that might be better for the local environment.

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