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Thread: Urban vs. conservation planning

  1. #1
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    Urban vs. conservation planning

    Greetings!

    I am in the process of applying to graduate schools and have become very interested in an Environmental Science and Management program. There is a specialization in Conservation Planning, but I am also very interested in physical planning and the built environment.

    Basically, I am wondreing what opportunities or limitations this grad program would create when I re-enter the working world, potentially in the planning field. Is there such a large difference between conservation and urban planning that skill sets would be non-transferable? Would this experience be seen as not fully applicable?

    Also, the plan is to live in California. The dream is to work as a planning or development consultant in a private firm, but that is subject to change I suppose. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    In my view, our society is beginning a change where more folk are beginning to understand the importance of the environment being more than a garbage dump. Whether this is sustained and will translate to policy and action is an open question.

    Our ecosystems are highly fragmented and if there is any chance of having them perform within their resilience and provide services for humanity, we need to ensure ecosystem resilience, and that means conservation. Conservation in the face of human population growth, inexorable resource degradation, and the fallacy of economic growth to solve our problems.

    Before you commit, you should buy the latest edition of The New Scientist and read the cover articles (buy it, trust me, much better than on-line). If these articles doesn't daunt you, go into conservation. Please. We need you. If they do daunt you, IMHO do your ESM and see if your Uni will allow you to craft a minor in urban planning/studies/design/something urban. Most of the knowledge sets in ESM are transferable, but there are some skills to be learned in the planning discipline that will serve you well if you can't stomach the constant Sisyphean workload of Conservation Planning. My view.

    Good luck in your choice.

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    Thanks for your insight! I guess I'm still a little unclear what conservation planning is, but I will definitely check out the recent edition of The New Scientist. Does conservation planning deal with easements and the protection of open spaces, the monitoring and analysis of organisms/systems, some combination of the two?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    I wanted to respond, but i guess, i am a little confused by "conservation" planning. I think if you want to combo both physical planning and conservation of natural resources, than maybe you should focus on the field of sustainable design. This seems to be a natural fit that marries physical planning and incorporating "conservation" principles and there are private firms throughout the state and country looking for these types of planners (well not right now, but definitely when the economy picks up_. Sustainability will be a driving force here in California as cities and counties strive to meet AB 32 mandates, and thus will be looking towards forward thinking planners.

    There are municipality positions that seek people to manage open space programs, non-profits need planners or similar type folks that focus on conservation of agriculture through easements or outright purchases or just plain old champion causes of preservation of ag, but i don't think they pay well. So i guess my question is, what do you really want to do with this degree? FYI Mods, can we merge this thread with the one started in the student lounge?
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  5. #5
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    Thanks for your insight! I guess I'm still a little unclear what conservation planning is, but I will definitely check out the recent edition of The New Scientist. Does conservation planning deal with easements and the protection of open spaces, the monitoring and analysis of organisms/systems, some combination of the two?
    My pleasure. Conservation planning, in short, is figuring out the strategies for protecting and restoring natural resources; this includes your topics and more. This is the journal of the profession*. An old GF used to work for the NRCS in CA from the botany side (as opposed to wildlife side), and she did work in ag to restore natural ecosystems to lessen petrochemical load on receiving waters. She also did invasives suppression, surveys, field measurements etc. Her boss was a conservation planner [CP], and directed her to perform tasks to carry out the goals of x, y, z programs. Said programs being resource protection and restoration for that District. A buddy the next county over (Solano) got conservation planning work on his land to create a little wetland to filter sediment from runoff to meet TMDL goals of the county, a partnership between the county, state, and NRCS (very common arrangement).

    Further info about CP is here, IIRC the GF was certified thru them, and was a member of the PCL, and we had friends at CA Fish & Game who worked here.

    This is the work and the community you'll deal with. Lots of budgetary constraints, partnering, scrounging, scrambling, working together. But at the end of the day there will be something there other than cookie-cutter McSuburbs and yet another ugly retail building paying taxes for politicians to spend - it's habitat for future generations to benefit from and enjoy, and a quiet place to enjoy what you did. Which is a lot. An awful lot. And we need more of an awful lot.

    Good luck in your decision!

    * Note the title in the current issue: "Alternative Future Scenarios..." this is one of the key directions the profession is going. More here.
    Last edited by Dan Staley; 30 Oct 2008 at 6:50 PM. Reason: typo

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    Thanks again for helping me get a grasp of things!

    Basically, my goal is to become an Environmental Planner and to work in a private consulting firm. I'm interested in aspects of restoration, the built environment, land use and sustainable design.

    So, I just don't know if I should focus on the "Environmental" aspect and go through a Masters of Environmental Science and Management prgoram, with a focus on Conservation Planning, or the "Planning" aspect by going to an ACSP accredited Planning program, with an emphasis on Environmental Planning.

    My main hangup is wondering how important an AICP certification would be as a private planner. I understand its only a title, but what makes a professional planner? Also, it seems like the MESM program would open several alternative career paths. I don't know if the same can necessarily be said for a planning degree if I decide I want to explore a career outside the field.

    Any thoughts?

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    No? No one has any thoughts?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Well I think it's an interesting route and I think you're probably taking the right steps with your education. Have you thought about going into something more design oriented?

    The reason I say this is, Landscape Architects (or some call themselves planners, but they're not really) do this type of marriage between the built environment and the natural environment. Lately I've been looking into MURP for my master's to compliment my undergraduate in LA. Most people think I'm crazy for doing that since I'm already a Landscape Architect and my goal with the MURP is to become more diverse as an Architect and Designer. It's important to know different aspects of the work you're doing, so my recommendation to you would be to diversify yourself as much as possible, then really try to tone in what it is you want to do from there. All in all though, you're definately headed in the right direction, and California is very advance with all planning work, good choice!!!

  9. #9
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    So, I just don't know if I should focus on the "Environmental" aspect and go through a Masters of Environmental Science and Management prgoram, with a focus on Conservation Planning, or the "Planning" aspect by going to an ACSP accredited Planning program, with an emphasis on Environmental Planning.

    My main hangup is wondering how important an AICP certification would be as a private planner. I understand its only a title, but what makes a professional planner? Also, it seems like the MESM program would open several alternative career paths. I don't know if the same can necessarily be said for a planning degree if I decide I want to explore a career outside the field.

    Any thoughts?
    First, you'll get a lot of discussion on this board about AICP certification. I don't have one, don't want one. My opinion. AICP certification entails a lot of plannery stuff that you may not get without a formal planning program, necessitating lots of study in your spare time. Mors longa, vita brevis. My opinion.

    Second, IMHO as briefly described, the MESM might give you more options, but some things you'll need: the ability to direct groups toward an outcome (a planning program should give enough background to get your mind around this), the ability to speak in front of anybody, the ability to translate sciency-speak for folk to understand. However you get this practice and skillset is up to you, but get it.

    Third, it's great to be interested in restoration, the built environment, land use and sustainable design, but what are you going to do with this interest? If it is to ensure adequate species richness and diversity in a particular site, then you will have a leg up on LArch's as IME most of them don't have that skillset. If it is to make policy to ensure spp richness and diversity is installed on the ground, you want to be a planner. If it is to be a generalist and figure out later a possible specialty, maybe a MESM is for you. You have to figure out what you like to do and focus on that. We can't tell you where to go without your self-reflection, we can only generalize.

    Again, "environmental" will become very important as it becomes more and more clear that we are running out of space and volume to dump the wastes of our societies. The two most important areas in this regard are water and air. In my view the Intermountain West will depopulate as water becomes more scarce (and esp if "oil shale" mining starts to go in earnest) and the effects of man-made climate change ramp up. This means population shifts and amelioration of this shift. Work with that premise.

    Good luck.

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