Development Pressure

Pennsylvania’s forests, streams, and farms are productive assets that account for millions of dollars each year in food, hunting, fishing, forest products as well as recreational activities. Beyond these economic values, protected open space provides value in the form of naturally occurring environmental processes. If these lands were developed, the state would be forced to spend money to replicate vital and costly services such as the supply of clean water, flood control, and air pollution mitigation through alternative methods.  In relying on the natural landscapes to provide these valuable services, Pennsylvania accrues significant savings. Replacing large tracts of these assets with urban development may have more of an impact on our health and well being than many people realize.

The rapid growth of Pennsylvania’s smaller urban areas helped make it the nation’s sixth most populous state, and the ninth most densely populated, according to the 2010 Census. All these Pennsylvanians need somewhere to live, eat, work, and play, and the resources to provide for these needs exert significant pressure on our natural areas. Understanding future land use changes can help guide conservation and management initiatives.  No state or regional conservation plan in Pennsylvania has been able to assess the level of threat imposed by potential land use change.  Therefore, understanding the direction of urban sprawl can help resource managers and planners determine the best course of conservation action, both for areas expected to undergo land use changes in the near future, and those areas for which such changes are not yet anticipated.

Read about the economic value of protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania in a report produced for the GreenSpace Alliance and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

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