Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 31

Thread: Planning in the American West

  1. #1
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6

    Planning in the American West

    Western Planners have different challenges than planners from three coasts, the East, Midwest and abroad. Of course many of the things we all do - subdivisions, zoning, transportation planning, and natural resource planning. Western Planners do it a little differently and much of the reasons we do things differently is the limitations that come from where we live.

    A planner in the West is probably more likely to work in a one-person shop. In fact, like a former employer of mine told me his first planning job he was the county planner, sanitarian, road supervisor and dog catcher. A western planner is more likely to work in a small town or city or in a rural county. A western planner usually works where the federal government is a major land owner, if not the major landowner in our county. Western planners work with an alphabet of federal agencies (FS. BLM, BOR, BLM, etc.)

    I was reading Wallace Stegner's The American West as Living Space. Stegner wrote that two aspects of the West help define it: aridity and space.

    West of the 98th, some say the 100th meridian, and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges, is another America that is big, wide, dry and dusty.

    ARIDITY - land decisions and land use are largely determined by the scarce resource - water. The West gets about 8-12 inches of precipation a year, usually through snowfall. This time of year we start worrying about what the snowpack is going to be like for spring thaw. We don't have enough water in a good year and damn too little in a bad year. Typically the water resources are over-allocated and the most junior water right won't be his full measure. Water is needed for livestock, hay, wheat, cities and town and power generation, and we are expected to move what we don't use up downstream to float the barges in the midwest.

    Montana is experiencing a drought. But that is practically normal lately. Water availabilty for development is a major concern in the Legislature. Water quality is a concern as well. The old water quality adage - "Dilution is the solution to pollution" - has special meaning when you don't even have enough water available to dilute! In the Helena Valley, many landowners count on the leaking irrigation ditches to replenish their wells.

    By July on a bad water year, we have dusty roads that affect air quality, concerns about forest and brush fires and the fish are getting thirsty and too warm.

    SPACE - The people of the West are accustommed to space. Lots and lots of space. On any given day, once I get out of town I expect to see 16 or more miles.

    Stegner quotes Mary Austin, speaking of the Owen Valley, saying "The manner of the country makes the usage of life there and the land will not be lived in except in its own fashion. The Shoshone live like their trees, with great spaces between." The wide open spaces. The Big Sky! People here are pre-conditioned to accept long commuting distances. People live here or moved here for "wide, open spaces." To many, dense development is practically an anathema. Here, dense development is one house per acre (the smallest parcel size allowed under DEQ for an on-site wastewater treatment system.) You want more dense development - move into town. This is changing now. People coming from other states are more accepting of quarter-acre lots on community water and sewer.

    Give me land. Lots of land. under starry skies above. Don't fence me in. . .

    These are some of my observations about planning in the West. And these are general statements. There are exceptions. There are big city planners working in the West. Your area of the West may be wetter or drier than mine. Your spaces might be more crowded by now than mine.

    I hope some of my fellow planning buckaroos and buckerettes will add some of their observations of planning in the Great American Desert, as Major Long dubbed these lands back in the 1820's. I hope non Western planners will chime in as well. Thanks.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  2. #2
    Being from the West (maybe)...

    Much of what you say is true, but you seem to exclude California, much of Arizonia, Washington, etc. from your definition of the west. You seem to only be referring to the most rural parts of the West. I think one thing that does make the West different from the rest of the country is the diversity of the landscape, its people and the political climate. The West includes the San Francicso Bay area and the big wide open spaces of Idaho and Montana. Most (not all) of the area does have scarce rainfall, much is earthquake country. Some if facing growth pressures, some are losing peope fast. Some places are extremely crowded, others empty. Put it all together and it is unique.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Brooks, Alberta
    Posts
    8
    I work for a small county in Southern Alberta. We're probably different than our Western American cousins in some ways, but I see a lot of similarities.

    I'm pretty well a one man planning, development and transportation show, althought I do share an assistant with the CAO. So I get pretty well everything. As a consequence, that means the county doesn't do a whole heck of a lot of planning or compliance monitoring.

    Water is definetly an issue for goodly chunks of the county. As an added plus, when we do get water, our drainage situation is piss-poor, so basements start leaking and septic fields fail. As you might imagine, I get a lot of great calls when an entire subdivision worth of septic systems start backing up.

    On the plus side, we're rich. We end up with billions of dollars worth of linear assessment, plus a lot of industrial land that we don't (yet) share with the major cities in the region. My office is enormous, my computer equipment bleeding edge and my convention budget is out of this world.

    I quite enjoy working in rural Western Canada; it's been a terrific way to start my career.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    9,029
    Blog entries
    2
    I work in a small Colorado front range city. In my daily work I tend to walk the balance beam of the Old Guard (in both citizens and coworkers) who are truly "western" in Otterpop's sense of things and the New Arrivals trying to put establish more dense development and a walkable downtown. I predict I will see struggles on the horizon with the new idea of a regional transit authority for the two counties in the area. The Old Guard will not want their dollars spent for transit, while the new arrivals will be voting for more options. The political decision making line-up is primarily Old Guard, which makes it tough for an "up and comer" like me sometimes.

    Contrary to my work life, I live in the County Next Door which is the opitome of the Western County. Weld County, Colorado is the size of Rhode Island, Delaware and the District of Columbia put together (and it is not the largest in Colorado or the West). My town is about 3500 people and I live in a subdivision of 6,000 - 10,000 square foot lots that is considered High Density Residential on the town's Comp Plan. I volunteer doing some planning work there and the climate is completely different than the surrounding towns and especially Denver, which is an hour south.

    While this region of Colorado is experiencing greater densification (is that a word?) as well as greater urbanization, I still see many of the attiributes of distance, land and aridity everyday.

    Otterpop
    , is it the "Old Guard" vs. New Planner mentality that is the reason why many municipalities and counties in your part of the West struggle to find employment? My fiance and I may be seeking to move back to Northern Idaho (and I have always been fascinated with Montana) but I feel that as a young idealistic planner, I will have to throw out many theories and practices conveyed through the APA and my self-education to dust off the old rubber stamp?

    Would the changing of the workforce as the Old Guard retires and younger people get hired change the face of Western Planning?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    Otterpop, is it the "Old Guard" vs. New Planner mentality that is the reason why many municipalities and counties in your part of the West struggle to find employment? My fiance and I may be seeking to move back to Northern Idaho (and I have always been fascinated with Montana) but I feel that as a young idealistic planner, I will have to throw out many theories and practices conveyed through the APA and my self-education to dust off the old rubber stamp?

    Would the changing of the workforce as the Old Guard retires and younger people get hired change the face of Western Planning?
    I don't really think it is the "Old Guard vs. New Planner mentality that is the problem finding good people to come to work for us. It is a variety of things that complicate the employment dilemma. One is pay. Planners don't earn as much money in much of the West as they do in other places.

    Also young planners are attracted to the resort areas. That is why if you go to Bozeman/Gallatin County, you will find young planners. Go to Cascade County and the planners are middle-aged.

    The Old Guard is alive and well in the under-populated rural areas, but the old ways of doing things are changing throughout the West. Gallatin County is looking at TDRs. Lewis and Clark County is looking into more zoning. The elected officials, the developers and the public are ready for a change. People see the train has left the station and you can either get on or get run over. Many of the areas in the interior West are just getting to the practices and tools of planning that planners in the midwest and the east were using for decades. There were practically no subdivision and platting requirements in Montana until 1973!

    Funny thing is APA is not really strong among planners in Montana. I recall attending a Western Planners conference in Red Lodge and the keynote speaker was the then-president of APA, who encouraged the planners to forego next year's conference to attend APA. He got polite applause as he concluded. After he left the room, the president of WP asked who was skipping the WP conference to attend the Big Show. No one clapped. "Who's coming to Western Planners next year?" he asked. Riotous applause. A lot of time it seems like APA pays lip service to planning in the West. They want our dues. We are just too few planners to serve.

    I've been to the Big Show, when it was in Denver. It was great. But I prefer the Western Planners conferences.

    No rubber stamps in my office. While we are not as heavily regulated as some counties in other states, we require developers toe the line. We need more tools. Development or building permits would be a good step. Someday we will have them. What we do or do not do about water will determine the nature and success of planning in Montana.

    A lot of counties in the West just don't have the tax base to provide adequate roads and other infrastructure. Twenty years or so from now my county will have perhaps 78,000 people. Not a lot of people when you consider the size of the county, but some counties in Montana have less than 5,000 people now!

    Most of the planners I know came from somewhere else. Lots of planners from Minnesota. We just hired a woman from Michigan. Heck, I came from Louisiana, though I did not become a planner until I had been here 10 years.

    It is a good and growing time to be a planner in Montana. We have the curse or blessing of living in interesting times.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  6. #6
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,872
    What an interesting thread. I live/work in New Mexico, definitely part of the open and arid west. I work for a non-profit organization focusing on community development work, but its a small enough town (Albuquerque) that I know what goes on over at City Panning and with the Counties as well.

    Certainly, the urban issues we face are unlike other areas I have lived in. Sprawl is a whole different animal when it is not creeping toward an outlying town, but onto Mesas and high desert that, for all intents and purposes, should never support human occupation. Water is huge in New Mexico. Albuquerque is about to switch to Rio Grande surface flow after drawing from the aquifer for so many years. This after pumping water from the Chama River (part of the Colorado River watershed) over the Continental Divide and dumping it into the Rio Grande. They will be storing it in reservoirs upstream and then releasing it throughout the year. Crazy stuff.

    And our average rainfall is about 8.5in a year, though as with many other areas, this has not been the case for at least the last 5-7 years. And yes, snowpack in Colorado is much more important to us than rain on the ground in Albuquerque.

    We also struggle with attracting skilled people in planning positions - even more so in our many smaller towns. There is so much space between population centers with nothing there that folks are very isolated and it is difficult to attract people to such settings (unless its a place like Taos in which case the salary will be far below what is required to actually own a home). Also, as a state, we produce virtually nothing and as such have a very low tax base (second lowest in the country for personal income tax returns). All that means living a very low-level existence which somehow seems most appropriate given the environs. You don't come to NM to make your fortune, that's for sure. It requires a different, low-impact way of living that, once you adjust to it, makes living other places all the more challenging. Its a lot of specialized knowledge.

    One theme that seems to have emerged in this thread that I certainly feel around here is the West versus the Coasts (especially the East Coast and DC in particular) tension. That is not to say that many people working in these areas are not actually from those places (myself included), but there is a long standing frustration in all areas of governance here and in much of the west that many major decisions impacting water management, land ownership (especially Federal lands and how they came to be so) and planning that have been imposed from other, very different settings by people who have never set foot here. There is an implied sense of condescension here - as if people in the west were not capable of making these decisions themselves. The imposition of water compacts in direct opposition to the watershed management model proposed to congress by John Wesley Powell is a good example.

    On a personal level, I have never lived anywhere quite like this and every season that rolls around (I have been hear ten years) brings a new depth of knowledge about the nature of the landscape and how best to live within it.

    Nowhere else have I lived where, if you got lost away from civilization, the sun could actually kill you and, possibly before anyone found your body, turn you to dust.

    Nowhere else have I witnessed reaching the outskirts of a town or city to find open, undeveloped expanses of land as far as you can see.

    Nowhere else have I ever seen such large amounts of simply uninhabitable land (they don't call it call the "Jornado del Muerto" cause its a cake walk...).

    Lastly, I am struck by the fact that this is a place with an incredible sense of historical depth - Pueblo communities can trace their existence back to the 1300's following the breakup of Anasazi culture. And yet, we seem to be very confused about how to manage future growth. Interesting...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #7
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    What an interesting thread. . .

    We also struggle with attracting skilled people in planning positions - even more so in our many smaller towns. There is so much space between population centers with nothing there that folks are very isolated and it is difficult to attract people to such settings (unless its a place like Taos in which case the salary will be far below what is required to actually own a home). Also, as a state, we produce virtually nothing and as such have a very low tax base (second lowest in the country for personal income tax returns). All that means living a very low-level existence which somehow seems most appropriate given the environs. You don't come to NM to make your fortune, that's for sure. It requires a different, low-impact way of living that, once you adjust to it, makes living other places all the more challenging. Its a lot of specialized knowledge.

    One theme that seems to have emerged in this thread that I certainly feel around here is the West versus the Coasts (especially the East Coast and DC in particular) tension. That is not to say that many people working in these areas are not actually from those places (myself included), but there is a long standing frustration in all areas of governance here and in much of the west that many major decisions impacting water management, land ownership (especially Federal lands and how they came to be so) and planning that have been imposed from other, very different settings by people who have never set foot here. There is an implied sense of condescension here - as if people in the west were not capable of making these decisions themselves. The imposition of water compacts in direct opposition to the watershed management model proposed to congress by John Wesley Powell is a good example. . .

    Lastly, I am struck by the fact that this is a place with an incredible sense of historical depth - Pueblo communities can trace their existence back to the 1300's following the breakup of Anasazi culture. And yet, we seem to be very confused about how to manage future growth. Interesting...
    Wahday, a very interesting post and a good example of the sort of discussion I hope this thread can generate. Your comments on how distance, low taxes and a different liefstyle making it difficult to attract planners is very true. It does take a different sort of people to work and stay in the West. In Montana, we often hear the older generation lamentingthat their children have to leave the state to find good-paying jobs. Who fills the jobs these kids aren't taking in-state? Out-of-staters who sacrifice higher pay for quality of life.

    I also agree that a special complication planners in the West face is working toward management decisions that affect resources that belong to many outside of our jurisdictions - federal lands (belong to everyone), the water that falls on our mountains benefits us initially and others downstream eventually, and the power we generate here is sent thousands of miles to serve people on the West Coast (and we have to pay California prices for Montana power ).
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,324

    Well....

    The definition of "west" warrants a discussion....sometimes it seems to me that the west could be defined as the area west of the original 13 colonies I'm only half joking here.... In reality, the line could be drawn further east...there are some counties in central Virginia that are every bit as serious about property rights, personal responsibility and perception of freedom as the most conservative County in the "west."

    While in Florida, it was fun to hear those who lived west of I-95 describe themselves as "living out west." I doubt the locals living in places like Zolfo Springs would like being called "easterners."

    I don't think this is a "west" thing, but a RURAL vs. URBAN thing, with the "new west" being rural areas and the "new east" being urban areas, regardless of physical location. This might explain why someone could consider much of urban California as not being in the "west."

    It also appears to me that the higher density urban areas pass a critical mass point for expectation of services from local government.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    The definition of "west" warrants a discussion....

    I don't think this is a "west" thing, but a RURAL vs. URBAN thing, with the "new west" being rural areas and the "new east" being urban areas, regardless of physical location. This might explain why someone could consider much of urban California as not being in the "west."

    It also appears to me that the higher density urban areas pass a critical mass point for expectation of services from local government.
    You makes some good points, but I do not agree that it is rural vs urban. East of the 98th meridian there are many rural counties. West of the 98th meridian there are many more per capita. However the challenges that face planners in the rural East are much different than those of rural planners west of the 98th and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges. The challenges of an urban planner east of the 98th is different than those of an urban planner west of the 98th.

    Those difference break down into three major categories: scarity of water resources, space and federal ownership of large tracts within your jurisdiction. There are of course other challenges (Indian reservations, for example), but those are the pretty much universal Big Three west of the 98th and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges. A planner west of the 98th has to deal with those challenges, whether in an urban or rural setting.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,324

    Hmmm....

    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    You makes some good points, but I do not agree that it is rural vs urban. East of the 98th meridian there are many rural counties. West of the 98th meridian there are many more per capita. However the challenges that face planners in the rural East are much different than those of rural planners west of the 98th and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges. The challenges of an urban planner east of the 98th is different than those of an urban planner west of the 98th.

    Those difference break down into three major categories: scarity of water resources, space and federal ownership of large tracts within your jurisdiction. There are of course other challenges (Indian reservations, for example), but those are the pretty much universal Big Three west of the 98th and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges. A planner west of the 98th has to deal with those challenges, whether in an urban or rural setting.
    Yes, there are unique geographical differneces....but "rural" planners in the "east" have more land and people to plan for and that creates a whole new and unique set of issues. Most eastern rural areas still have multiple federal ownership issues, just smaller in scale, but they also have a much higher % of land under private ownership, yet they still have to deal with independent minded folks who sometimes don't take kindly to the goals of a new fangled Comprehensive Plan. So, I would also suggest that there is a greater social issue at play here too.

    Nice thread though, I want to hear from more rural planners in the eastern states..... It doesn't look good having a Western Arizona guy standing up for rural easterners.....could get me branded as a sissy boy or worse yet....a liberal....ha ha ha
    Skilled Adoxographer

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jan 2004
    Location
    montana
    Posts
    336
    Sorry to be late to the thread, but I've been scramblin'...here's some thoughts:

    ** the West seems to be engaged in a regional dialogue on a much greater scale than other regions. This is, I think, a consequence of large landscapes with few people that has seen enormous change over the past 15 years. As a result, we get High Country News, New West, Headwaters News, and other news services that examine issues on a regional scale. The conversation is great, and unlike any other place I've lived.

    ** We're working with some really archaic statutes out here. Our planning statutes were written in a time when population densities were REALLY low and not changing. Now that times are changing, we've all got a pretty archaic statutory structure on which everything is based. Makes it tough.

    ** The big news in western planning is the fact that, for 15 years, our populations, economies, and landscapes have changed tremendously for reasons that are different from the past. Used to be our boom and bust was a natural resource cycle; now, people move out here because they've got disposable income, they want a nice place to live, and airlines have made things less isolated. This change has wreaked all kinds of havoc as our traditional small towns, with their values of letting people do want they want on their own property, get hammered by out-of-town developers who, with one quick development, change communities.

    ** The New West economy is one that is largely dependent on human resources, but most economic development policies are based on yesterday's natural resources. This isn't to say some communities don't benefit- look at Gillette, Wyoming's public schools, for example- but our traditional boom and bust economy is not healthy and we need to adapt our strategies for healthier growth.

    ** I'd say that the majority of the West's significant real estate boom is linked to the airline industry. this is an isolated place, and if that second-home owner can't get back home easily, your town won't grow. Another 911 or similar airline disaster and the West's boom is done. (personal opinion, anyway).

    Anway, that's some thoughts. Thanks for the thread!

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    1
    Yes, the West is different and the design for the west has different sensitivities. For example, the late addition to the Denver Art Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind is a horror show as an art museum and all his ridiculous platitudes about it being a work of art to display works of art are absurd. He made a mess of designing a space for the enjoyment, viewing and appreciation of art. His proposed plans for Denver's Civic Center Park were even worse than the museum - truly awful. People who have no understanding of the west and its culture and climate should not try to design for the West. They are destined to fail, and like Libeskind, look like a total idiot once their great design is made public.

    Last edited by debi; 18 Apr 2007 at 8:31 PM. Reason: typos

  13. #13
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    9,029
    Blog entries
    2
    Quote Originally posted by debi View post
    Yes, the West is different and the design for the west has different sensitivities. For example, the late addition to the Denver Art Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind is a horror show as an art museum and all his ridiculous platitudes about it being a work of art to display works of art are absurd. He made a mess of designing a space for the enjoyment, viewing and appreciation of art. His proposed plans for Denver's Civic Center Park were even worse than the museum - truly awful. People who have no understanding of the west and its culture and climate should not try to design for the West. They are destined to fail, and like Libeskind, look like a total idiot once their great design is made public.

    I drove under that thing a couple weeks ago. What kind of setback encroachment variance was that allowed? A full right-of-way encroachment? Avigation easement?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  14. #14
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    I drove under that thing a couple weeks ago. What kind of setback encroachment variance was that allowed? A full right-of-way encroachment? Avigation easement?
    We planners are ruined for life. Everywhere we go we see zoning violations, poor design, etc. Our lives are non-stop busman's holidays.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,169
    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    I drove under that thing a couple weeks ago. What kind of setback encroachment variance was that allowed? A full right-of-way encroachment? Avigation easement?
    Is the building really that unpopular. I read about it in a magazine and looked it up online. It looked weird, but cool in a way. I like modern buildings though.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
    Posts
    10
    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    The West includes the San Francicso Bay area and the big wide open spaces of Idaho and Montana.
    You didn't read the original post.

    West of the 98th, some say the 100th meridian, and east of the rain shadow of the coastal ranges, is another America that is big, wide, dry and dusty.

  17. #17
         
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Funky Town, CO.
    Posts
    432
    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist View post
    Is the building really that unpopular. I read about it in a magazine and looked it up online. It looked weird, but cool in a way. I like modern buildings though.
    I visited the museum about 2 months ago. Even though it had only been open a few months they already had to start repairing it. Snow melt was leaking into the building and they had to close the main stairway for one floor to make the repairs. Because the interior walls slope inward they had to put bumpers on the floor to keep people from hitting their heads on the walls. The museum is now letting employees go because revenues are not meeting expectations.

    I think the building looks like two ships that crashed into each other. Walking around the building feels like you are next to some type of calamity. At least the building is screened from Civic Center Park by the original museum building. Libeskind's redesign of the "City Beautiful" inspired Civic Center Park was rejected by the Denver community and work was start on a new plan that respects the original classical design.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Boiker's quote appeared in a thread entitled: "Now It is Global Cooling." Rather than go way off topic in that thread and because it fits more appropriately in this thread I started about Planning in the American West, I am putting it here.

    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    It's safe to add that humans have grealy influenced bio diversity and distribution on the planet which will have some impact on at least localized climate and environmental items.

    Invasive species-- human caused
    Clearing of the prairies for agriculture-- human caused
    Insane logging in the eastern half of the country -- human caused

    Each of these actions will have or has caused a consequence(s). Being environmental isn't necessarily about preventing climate change but it is about minimizing our effect (realized, potential or imaginary) on the system.
    OT
    There is another human-caused enironmental impact - prevalent in the West - is the extensive irrigation projects the Bureau of Reclamation did in the early decades of the 20th century.

    The obvious benefit was the greening of the California desert which makes it possible to grow vegetables year-round and Americans can have their fresh brocolli in February. The downside of that has been mining of water resources across state lines and water resource compacts that subsidize cheap water for agriculture.

    What often isn't seen is that many of these irrigation projects were ass-backwards. We built dams to create the reservoirs to irrigate agricultural lands. In the process we flooded viable and fertile agricultural lands that was kept fertile and free of alkali under reservoirs to irrigate formerly dry and marginally productive uplands. Often these irrigated lands have highly alkaline soils, and the irrigation not only speads the alkaline to other areas but also leads to saline seeps and dry beds. We stock the reservoirs with non-native fish species for recreation and the water is too warm to support native species that become threatened or endangered, or even extinct. The dams upset the natural flows of streams which adversely affect stream mechanisms, riparian health and hydrobiology.

    Man has a big impact on the environment and climate. We need to learn when to leave the Earth to do its own thing.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  19. #19
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,964
    We planners are ruined for life. Everywhere we go we see zoning violations, poor design, etc. Our lives are non-stop busman's holidays.
    On a trip to the "eastern settlements" I saw some offending portable signs in the right-of-way of some town. I drove around the block to confiscate them. And I was supposed to be on vacation!

  20. #20
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6

    Mining making a comeback?

    Today I opened the most recent issue of Planning and there was an article on mining possibly making a comeback in the West. Due to increased demand from China and India the price of molybdenum has gone from $2 per pound just six years ago to over $30. Molybdenum is used as an alloying agent to strengthen steel.

    As a result, people in Crested Butte, CO are divided as to whether or not the possible molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons is a good or bad thing. On one hand it would create jobs and help the local economy. On the other hand it could affect viewsheds and adversely affect water quality.

    Part of the article deals with cyanide heap leaching, a mining industry preferred method for separating precious metals from ore. Several Colorado counties have passed ordinances against the practice and the mining industry is challenging the authority of counties to regulate specfic mining practices because that authority resides with the state.

    Montana has prohibited cyanide heap leaching. The impetus was a planned mining operation right here in my county that would have been very close to the Blackfoot River (immortalized in Norman McClean's novel and later a movie A River Runs Through It) Our county created a growth policy for the area largely due to proposed mining operation.

    Mining in the West has been a boon and a curse throughout the history of the West.

    Cities like Denver, Helena, Butte, and Crested Butte got their starts as rough-and-tumble mining camps. George Hearst made a fortune several times over in mining and his son started a newspaper empire that survives today.

    But the legacy also includes dark chapters. The Pinkertons ruthlessly broke mining strikes and state and federal troops were used as well to break up strikes. Mining empires created by Clark and Daly ruled Montana politics for decades.

    Mining compnaies have an unfortunate history of making their fortunes, then, once the fortune has been made, stepping away from the responsibility of cleaning up the messes they made. It is common for the companies to declare bankruptcy prior to mitigation.

    The Clark Fork River in Montana has the dubious distinction of being EPA's largest Superfund site - stretching from Anaconda to the Hell Gate Canyon, near Missoula. The cleanup is on-going. Recently the Milltown Dam, a few miles upstream of Missoula, was dismantled and the river runs free again, but not before millions of tons of soil tainted by heavy metals had to be relocated.

    The Mike Horse Dam, a crumbling earthen structure, near the headwaters of the Blackfoot River, is also being mitigated, because of past failures of the dam led to massive fish kills.

    The long-outmoded 1872 Mining Act is part of the problem. It is a give-away to the mining companies, allowing them wide latitude in mining on public lands.

    Mining booms and bust are cyclical. Planners throughout the West deal with the issues of mining development and the eventual ramifications of collapse of the mining operations. Ten years ago mining was all people around here seem to be talking about. Nowadays, there is hardly a peep. Who knows what the next few years will bring.

    Big mining will come back to my county one day. Actually mining never went away. There is a family just a few miles from town who operate a placer mine. There are sapphire mines here too. They are more of an oddity than an industry. We have a prospector's shop. I pan a creek now and again.

    I am hoping that if mining makes a comeback here that we are taking steps to mitigate the damages caused and making sure the mining companies stick around for the cleanup and mitigation. Congress is considering requiring mining companies who operate on public lands to pay a royalty to fund mitigation. I hope they do.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  21. #21
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,872
    Very interesting about the mining issue. Mining is big business and Big Problem all over the West, for sure. In many ways, we serve as the colonial territories of yore - controlled primarily for access to natural resources while local people are given little or limited control over these extractive activities.

    Silver City, one of my favorite small towns in New Mexico, was supported largely by the Phelps-Dodge Corporation which ran the Santa Rita Copper Pit Mine until just a few years ago. The mine has closed, thousands lost jobs, and now the town is in the slumps. Its a very isolated place with little other economy except for a small state college, a burgeoning retirement population and a growing art community. But they definitely have dark days ahead. These emplyers cannot handle the number of unemployed and Stream, some sort of call center that was the second largest employer, has also folded.

    Indeed, this town is in many ways typical of (or "quintessential", to quote another thread) mining towns in the west. The place would never have been established if it were not for the mine (actually the first mine was a silver mine - bet you would never have guessed that one). As I said, it is very isolated and difficult to reach and there is no other notable economic base. But now it IS there and the place has grown to accommodate more residents, many are intimately attached to the place, the state is invested through the college, etc. So, what to do? I could easily see that if the mine were to reopen that people may look favorably on that possibility despite the horrendous groundwater pollution issues and the refusal by Phelps-Dodge to invest any more than one tenth of the estimated clean-up charge the state estimates is necessary.

    On a side note, one interesting economic development initiative the state has been undertaken since Richardson came to office is filming. We have had over 90 films or TV shows shot here in the last 3 years. Yes, its annoying when they film on your street (or your work, which has happened twice). Yes, there is environmental impact when they start blowing things up and inconvenience when key streets are closed. But what I find interesting is that it is essentially an extractive industry that only "takes" images of the natural surroundings. New Mexico is blessed with a varied terrain that, depending on where you go, could be almost anywhere in the US. They shot a show for the Sci Fi channel here that was set in Pittsburgh, for example. Bu other places can easily pass for anywhere in the west, including Texas, the Plains, etc. What I did not realize until they shot at my place of work was all of the economic opportunities that spring up to support this industry. There is the obvious (set design, actors, film and lighting crews) but also caterers, laundry services, location scouts, entertainment, vacant lot rentals, set designers, extras, and so much more. It really has inspired a lot of entrepreneurship and the establishment of a number of state-supported training programs to help get more New Mexicans with skills that film projects need so they can hire locally.

    Anyway, I though this was an interesting twist on "extractive" industries like mining. Its still an economy based on natural resources, just not the exploitation of those resources.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  22. #22
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6
    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    . . . Anyway, I though this was an interesting twist on "extractive" industries like mining. Its still an economy based on natural resources, just not the exploitation of those resources.
    Wahday,

    Those are very interesting observations about the film industry being an "extractive industry," in the sense of dependent on natural resources and pointing out the downsides, as well. I had not thought of it in those ways. Thank you.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  23. #23
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,058
    Blog entries
    6

    Burn, baby, burn

    It is only June and fire season has started. On Monday afternoon a wildfire broke out a few miles northwest of town and by sunset 700 acres had burned and 200 homes were evavuated. The plume of smoke was impressive and frightening. We were fine in town until the wind shifted and the smoke started coming into town. Fortunately for us the smoke was never bad in our neighborhood. It just smelled a little smokey. I think the mountain breezes kept most of the smoke out of the central and southern parts of town.

    The fire is still burning, though not so badly. Helicopters and airplanes are dropping water on the blaze, which has gone over the ridge and is burning mostly on BLM land. So far no one has gotten hurt. A few houses got burned though.

    Fire is a natural process. It is scary. But it can be good for the forest. And come next year, people will be hiking the burned area and enjoying the blooming fireweed, which is the first sign that the forest is springing back.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Wherever
    Posts
    1,181
    I'm interested to see what the aftermath will be in Colorado Springs. It was known for a long time that those houses were at a significant risk for forest fires but the residents failed to heed any of the advice on how to mitigate it. Some areas were so bad that the fire department essentially told residents they'd be out of luck if a fire occurred. So now we have a fire and a blame game will likely follow.

    Guess the plus side of this will be that the fires will benefit the housing industry in Colorado Springs that has been really hurting. Also it'll be decades before something like this can happen again.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,872
    I would agree, as I think I said elsewhere, that all that forest, well, it has to burn sometime. Sad thing is, we have suppressed it so long that the fires we are seeing now (and I just looked at photos of the Waldo fire near Colorado Springs Ė holy camoly!) are much larger and more intense that we would experience if things were following their natural course. That means more damage, more loss, more health hazards, displacement of wildlife, flooding (once a fire moves through, most precipitation just runs off the surface and can cause major flooding, especially in rural communities) etc. It ainít pretty. But, Sh!ts gotta burn somehow. I just hope we (in the West in particular) can get out ahead of the game to manage what has burned in a way that will minimize the intensity of future fires. What we do about the endless forestland that is still waiting to explode, I donít really know.

    Right now, here, its 101.5 (should reach 104 by the end of the day) with 1 percent humidity. The week ahead looks just as grim. Fires are breaking out in the greater metro area on a weekly basis. Its scary out there.

    Iím now thinking I need to read Tomothy Eganís The Big Burn. Though it might just make me terrified to go into the woodsÖ
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

More at Cyburbia

  1. West Coast USA - planning roles
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 0
    Last post: 17 Apr 2009, 3:44 AM
  2. Replies: 5
    Last post: 26 Oct 2007, 4:56 AM
  3. Replies: 16
    Last post: 17 Feb 2005, 3:50 PM
  4. Latin American Planning
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 7
    Last post: 18 Nov 2003, 12:11 AM
  5. Replies: 0
    Last post: 20 Jun 2000, 10:03 AM