Thinking Big in a Big Country  

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Date: Sat, Mar 22 2008 6:28 pm

ENTS folks-
Recently I ran across an article in the Sept/Oct 2005 issue of Orion, which I think bears revival!

Written by Bruce Babbit as an essay adapted from Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America (Island Press), I initially was skeptical as I had not been altogether approving of Babbit's activities in the SW of late.
Nonetheless, I think that some excerpts from his essay "Thnking Big in a Big Country" may strike some mellifluous chords among many ENTS members.

Initially, Babbit characterizes land use planning from the early days of our expanding nation to present times as 'directed national development'. He goes on to say "Land use planning has been a one-way stree, down which we relentlessly race toward government-subsidized exploitation of every resource. The question s we now face are whether and how to include the public interest in our land and resource decisions."
"The absence of large-sacale open space planning in the US heretofore, and consequent destruction of landscape ecosystems, has resulted from an almost exclusive control of land use decisions by municipal and county governments in thrall to developers. WHat is needed is a larger vision for the patterns on the land that we want to see in place a century from now."

In an interesting variation on the Conservation Biology precept of core/buffer/corridor land use planning, Babbitt suggests we "...could begin by thinking of cities as islands surrounded by a sea of open landscapes: compact, self-sustaining with discernible outer boundaries beyond which the acres are devoted to agriculture and the preservation of space and biological diversity. The patterns of development within each island would remaing questions best left for local decision. The overarching national intersst, properly the subject of federal legislation and land use planning, would lie in the surrounding natural landscapes that comprise the ecosystems that provide for both people and the diversity of life on our planet. Such planning will require govenmnet leadership and the willingness to use all the tools, public and private, available for land protection.
One such tool could be an amended Endangered Species Act, which would operate more in the style of peventive medicine. [Could be more appropriately be amended to "The Endangered Ecosystem Act] The Act should conserve the ecosystems upon which all of life, including human life, depends, rather than performing species by species should be expanded to promote the protecion of open sapce and important and threatened ecosystems before the downward spiral to extinction begins."

This would be the kind of 'audacity of environmental hope' I would like to hear from ANY of our presidential candidates!
-Don Bertolette