Posts Tagged ‘environmental planning’

Land is political. Making change happen – to protect landscape resources, to create more sustainable neighborhoods and cities, and so forth – requires that potential changemakers have political awareness, at the very least, and, better yet, shrewdness and intuition. Phil Lewis, emeritus professor of the University of Wisconsin, tells a story in his book, Tomorrow by Design, from the early years of landscape planning, before the environmental movement, that is worth repeating. Lewis demonstrated political ingenuity that is simply too uncommon. (more…)

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PlaceMatters, a nonprofit that developed from the Orton Family Foundation, recently published Bridging the Divide Between Science and Planning: Lessons From Ecosystem-Based Planning Approaches to Local and Regional Planning in the United States. There are six case studies in the report, chronicling the efforts of a partnership between PlaceMatters, the Packard Foundation, and NatureServe to better integrate ecosystem science into community planning. The subjects of the planning efforts are quite varied, and the locations range from Maine to Hawaii. The report is a welcomed contribution, especially given that there are not enough documented cases like the ones detailed here. I was struck, though, by a key finding:

Throughout all of the case studies and lessons, one underlying theme becomes apparent: although good data, robust models, and a logical decision process all matter, the politics matter even more. How effectively a community planning process unfolds is determined in large part by who participates, how they participate, and what power they each wield. How effectively such a planning process incorporates good scientific information depends on how much credibility the experts and their tools have in the process. In other words, community planning efforts are not exercises in abstracted rationality, but rather they are fundamentally political processes involving multiple parties with divergent interests. All community planning processes and decisions, not to mention subsequent implementation, are subject to the politics of their communities, and any approach to EBM that fails to recognize this is much less likely to produce effective implementation of a scientifically appropriate plan. [Emphasis added.]

Whoa, how was this not known from the outset? Because of the gulf between the science of the landscape and the real world of land use decision making. And this is precisely why efforts like this are needed, and why the title, Bridging the Divide is so appropriate. Using scientific knowledge to enhance land use decision making is valid and important, but the local politics of place have to be acknowledged from the get-go, or the planning effort will be doomed.

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Because landscape planning has been important part of landscape architecture from the beginning days of the profession. Some of the earliest landscape planners worked in the Olmsted office, and the first city planners were architects (e.g., Daniel Burnham) and landscape architects (e.g., F.L. Olmsted, Jr. and John Nolen). Another reason for the landscape planning emphasis of this blog is that there are plenty of blogs that already address urban design and landscape design. Design will be discussed here too, but probably not in the same way.

The growing importance of landscape urbanism and related “urbanisms” suggests to me that landscape planning and/or ecological planning needs to be brought back into the professional conversation. Many of the underlying ideas I see presented in landscape urbanism proposals have connections to landscape planning.

Landscape planning – rooted in landscape architecture. Land use planning and environmental planning? Related, but not exactly the same. Disciplinary influences on what is now considered mainstream land use and environmental planning are primarily from social and natural sciences. More on landscape planning to come.

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