- Land-Use and Land Cover Change Impacts on the Jornada Long-term Ecological Research Site (LTER).
National Science Foundation
This 3-year project is part of a long-term study for the Jornada LTER site that began in 1997. Dr. Wright is working to analyze landscape change trends from 1960 until the present in the vicinity of the Jornada LTER Site. The focus of the project is on environmental effects of urban development on Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems. Special attention is being placed on the viability of the Jornada LTER. The interest is in spatial and temporal variation in desertification dynamics, and how historic legacies, the geomorphic template, transport vectors (wind, water, animals), and environmental drivers (climate, land use, disturbance) interact with the patch structure of the vegetation to determine past, present, and future ecosystem dynamics across scales.
- Integrated Land Conservation Decision-Support Model (ILCDS) Generation III.
Resource Dimensions evaluated a series of data obtained over a 4-year period in the U.S. and Britain to aid in the development of a multi-criteria land conservation decision-support tool. The model employs choice experiments and contingent valuation methods to derive value and rank attributes (at the landscape-scale) and ecological constraints in facilitating strategic regional land conservation decision-making. The Resource Dimensions team designed the model and research strategy, developed focus group questionnaires and survey instruments, and conducted quantitative analysis, Ethnographic text-based analysis of transcripts derived from focus groups and in-person interviews, and econometric analysis. The ILCDS model is linked to a GIS framework to enable graphic presentation of conservation hotspots and location specific land and ecosystem service values. The integral data component modules include: 1) policy/regulatory, 2) local land use zoning, 3) local/regional economic information, and 4) social
valuation. Gen. III acknowledges the complex suite of factors that interact to impact individual behaviors at the local and regional level relative to land use and environmental decision-making. The project is a cooperative public/private/non-profit venture. Project partners over its evolution have included a number of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, two universities, and a private foundation.
Mesilla Farmland Conservation Strategy.
Town of Mesilla, New Mexico
The Town of Mesilla, located on the outskirts of Las Cruces, is southern New Mexico's most historic land grant village. In recent years, much of the beautiful landscape of pecan groves and chili fields along the Rio Grande River has been converted to residential development. Less than half the village's agricultural land remains. Working with the Town, Jack Wright developed a strategic farmland and open space plan to protect specific land resources. The project included the use of GIS to track and analyze land use change and the conversion of farmland to development in the period between 1967 and 2007. Over 20 public hearings and work sessions were held with stakeholders. Project tasks included the identification of remaining farmland and open space, developing a conservation development ordinance, working with the public to explain and garner support, providing technical information on conservation easements to landowners, and completing the Farmland Conservation Plan as a supplement to the Mesilla
Comprehensive Plan. Shortly after passage of the Farmland Conservation Strategy, a Mesilla farmer sold development rights to a 142-acre parcel he owned to help create the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.
- Urban Growth Boundary Analysis: Assessment of TDR Program for Community Plan.
USDA Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The first phase involved an in-depth review and assessment of the sociodemographic, economic, land use, soils, agriculture and industry, and the natural and agricultural resource base of the study area, county and region to establish an understanding of existing conditions in context. The second phase centered on a Pierce County and private review of state and local land use regulations to examine their impacts on the City's capacity to accommodate future growth, and preliminary guidance on a TDR for inclusion within the Community Plan area. In the third phase of work, two alternate points-based decision-support models designed to facilitate the ranking and rating of parcels currently outside of the Urban Growth Area (UGA). The frameworks were designed to be easily combined with GIS to quickly screen for parcels viable for UGA inclusion or exclusion, an important element in working to effectively and transparently determine lands appropriate for
conservation. In phase four, the team modeled economic impacts to the community, county and region associated with lands at the northernmost reach of the designated community planning area under various development scenarios, to define lands with the greatest likelihood of remaining economically viable for agriculture over the long-term. Finally, the fifth phase centered on the proposed community plan for TDR and various analyses to help assure the success of the program, including screening and determining available sending/receiving sites; quantifying supply and demand for TDRs in the market place; and assessing proposed TDR policies. In association with Investco Corporation.
- Public Attitudes on Environment and Land Use Conservation in the Western United States.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Resource Dimensions developed a three-phased process (including survey instruments and questionnaires) that included 12 focus groups, 210 interviews, and the distribution of 17,000 surveys across the spectrum of general public, government agencies and non-profit organizations throughout nine western states to obtain primary data on public views toward a range of land use, conservation and related environmental issues. The data was used to develop a decision model to extend the application of traditional economics and ecological constraints in facilitating regionally-based landscape-scale decisions and long-term strategic planning for conservation lands. The model developed acknowledges that a complex suite of factors including social value, environmental and land use policies, economics and environmental constraints interact to drive behaviors at the local and regional level.
- Evaluation of the Conservation Easement and Capacity Grant Building Program.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
This study served to assess NFWF’s significant investments in 100 land acquisition and capacity building projects. The study comprised several methods: a literature review of conservation easements and capacity building, review of project grant files, focus group interviews of grantees and experts, a grantee telephone survey and on-site field visits including one-on-one interviews with grantee staff. Key recommendations included that the NFWF invest more strictly in easements that are operating at sufficient scale in an ecosystem; consider expanding its reporting requirements from grantees both during a project and after project completion to assess how effectively the projects are sustaining wildlife over time; create a formal strategy for promoting long-term relationships between NFWF and grantees; and adopting a cost-effectiveness evaluation system using numerical rating and ranking for land acquisition and capacity building projects to
aid in comparing them across geographic areas and ensuring that the most cost-effective projects are selected; take a more active leadership role in funding capacity building projects to improve the stewardship and easement monitoring protocols of grantee organizations through enabling these organizations to evaluate the performance of their land acquisition projects; and take a more effective leadership role in consolidating land trusts operating at regional scales with adequate staff expertise.
- Advisor - Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Reinventing Conservation Easements Project
Dr. Julie Ann Gustanski served a Lincoln Institute fellowship project in which current U.S. conservation easement laws were critically examined. The intent of this project was to identify and evaluate the potential for creating new real estate laws that will provide greater assurance to the promises imposed by conservation easements to future generations.
- Land Consumption Analysis
The Resource Dimensions partnership has conducted a variety of land consumption analyses relative to suburban, rural, and ex-urban growth issues in order to answer an array of questions, such as: "How can current needs and objectives be met while bestowing adequate environmental and natural resources to future generations?" and "What social, economic, and behavioral adaptations are required?" Several analyses have focused on evaluation of regulatory and incentive planning tools for redevelopment and conservation. These analyses have been used to demonstrate potential impacts dictated by current zoning (e.g., service, environmental, traffic, and fiscal requirements, etc.) compared against alternatives that may provide a more favorable future.
- Community Involvement in Regional Economic Analysis
Scenic Byways Subcommittee Minnesota River Basin.
Analysis of economic benefits and impacts on communities, and agricultural and natural resources along the 100- mile corridor proposed for conservation designation. Conducted community hearings and performed alternative futures analysis on attitudes towards various development alternatives along corridor. Work was performed to support integrated strategy for sustainable growth.
- Conservation Development Planning & Assessment
Resource Dimensions' team members have worked with agencies and organizations in more than a dozen states to assess and plan conservation developments. The goal of conservation (or cluster) development is to protect land resources while allowing for the maximum number of residences under current municipal zoning and subdivision regulations. We have also assisted communities in developing conservation subdivision regulations to enable new residential growth within "clusters" while preserving dedicated non-development areas on lands with open space, agricultural, natural, historical and recreational values.
- Dakota County, Minnesota, Farmland and Natural Area Preservation Program Guidelines.
In November 2002, the voters of Dakota County approved a $20 million bond issue to preserve farmland through the purchase of development rights and natural areas through fee simple purchase. The project included drafting the PDR Program Guidelines and preparing the program for implementation. Over the project, Tom Daniels worked closely with county staff and County Commissioners, who approved the PDR program guidelines in 2003. Since 2003, Dakota County has received all of the federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) funds allocated to the State of Minnesota, more than $5 million.
- Ecosystem Services Valuation and Conservation Strategy for Hacienda Central Pellejas Conservation Easement, Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.
Resource Dimensions developed estimates for the range of ecosystem services values to enable the accounting of these values within the conservation easement appraisal process. The technique employed a transparent approach incorporating the use of accepted economic valuation methods to derive objective and consistent empirical estimates for the range of ecosystem service benefits for a 1,400 acre property in terms of marginal values, as an input into the management of the private forest and agricultural lands, and their total value.