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Thread: Outlook for the environmental planning field in the future

  1. #1
    Member
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    Outlook for the environmental planning field in the future

    Hi, All,
    My major is Chemistry, but I have great interest in Environmental Planning. I am now looking for information to learn about this field. I'm wondering if any one of you would give me some recently hot topics and future trend in this field. Any recommendations on the classical textbooks I can read will also be welcomed.
    Your help will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    i'd also like to hear what people think about starting off in an Environmental Planning career. is a Community Planning and Development program with a land use track adequate? what does the job maket look like?

    Thanks for any guidance.
    Lynn.

  3. #3
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    I'm waiting day by day.
    I'd like to focus on urban ecology.
    Is there anyone who could give me any suggestion on this field about the concentrations?
    I will appreciate your replies very very much!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    also interested

    I'm also interested in what the outlook is for environmental planning.
    Is there going to be a big demand for environmental planers??

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Currently there is a big demand for environmental planners. There have been several unfilled jobs looking for individuals with 5+ or 8+ years. Currently the entry market is very tight. If you are going to school right now environmental planning might not be a bad choice especially if more and more stimulus money is pumped into the economy because every transit and transportation job needs at least an EA if not an EIS so there will be work to be done. It's not my cup of tea, I chose not to go that route in grad school and may be paying for it now. I could have a job but would be bored if I studied environmental planning.
    @GigCityPlanner

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    curriculum, salary

    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    Currently there is a big demand for environmental planners. There have been several unfilled jobs looking for individuals with 5+ or 8+ years. Currently the entry market is very tight. If you are going to school right now environmental planning might not be a bad choice especially if more and more stimulus money is pumped into the economy because every transit and transportation job needs at least an EA if not an EIS so there will be work to be done. It's not my cup of tea, I chose not to go that route in grad school and may be paying for it now. I could have a job but would be bored if I studied environmental planning.
    what kind of courses do you have to take if you choose your focus on environment planning?? what kind of salaries does an environment planner get after getting the master's degree?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I didn't go the environmental route so I'm not sure about courses, check with an advisor if that is your goal. Salary wise it would be comparable to any other planner just more specialized and, in my opinion, a much drier topic.
    @GigCityPlanner

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    As a consultant I worked in environmental planning for 4 years, in addition to a ton of other planning specializations. My BUP is a general planning degree without any specialization. I prepared EISs (Environmental Impact Statements), EAs (Environmental Assessments), ECADs (Environmental Class Action Determinations), ESRs (Environmental Survey Requests), FONSIs (Finding of No Significant Impacts), etc.

    I had one required environmental planning class during my undergrad at UIUC. It had absolutely NOTHING to do with what I did in environmental planning. If anything it was more of an ecology course. If anything, course work in land use planinng, physical planning, noise studies, waste management, local ecology, transportation planning, and historic preservation helped me more as I needed to determine what level of environmental impacts were caused by proposed improvements. Half of the environmental planning projects I worked on were for transportation improvements and the other half was for development. I agree, environmental planning is very dry (but still interesting and challenging). In some ways environmental planning, historic preservation, and grant writing (all of which I worked in) are similar because you spend most of the billable hours filling out forms and contacting agencies to verify everything.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I tend to feel that Environmental Planning is not so dry. However, it really depends on what role you have, who you work for, and what kind of environmental planning you are doing. Just like any job - if it makes you happy, you will be happy.

    Perhaps the most common type of environmental planning involves writing EAs, EISs and their related documents. These jobs can pay very well depending on your client or employer, and can be either rewarding or dull depending on the how much it interests you. It is not always a bowl of cherries, but it is a truly important role to have.
    One of the least common types is as a community outreach planner for environmentally sustainable development projects. A job like this will be extremely challenging and probably won't pay well, but at the end of the day you are fighting for a cause you believe in (probably).
    As for preparing for the field, the most important thing you can do in your education is to diversify your knowledge base. I feel this is important in all planning disciplines. Understanding ecology, law, politics, and economics will greatly enhance your ability to do well in this field. There are dozens of internships out there. I strongly recommend applying for them. Search the common sites (planetizen and american planning association) but don't shy away from simply asking your local companies or government entities. I worked as an intern in a very rewarding position, and I got the job by mailing out letters and resumes to every local planning firm in the area, then by persistently checking to see if they had openings.
    Gaining a little experience in the field will help you discover if its right for you, and will help you find your first job.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Unxnx, you also mentioned an interest in urban ecology. When I wore my environmental planning hat, I often worked with the ecologists on the projects. As a planner, I devoted my time to assessing development impacts on land uses, special lands, historic and cultural resources, noise studies, agricultural uses, and CERCLUS/LUST (remediation sites). The ecologists would work on the same project but would tackle wetlands, fish and wildlife, ecosystems, retention ponds, soils, "flora and fauna", etc.

    What exactly interests you in "urban" ecology? I see at least one, possibly two ways, you could go and you don't necessarily need a planning, or environmental planning degree.

  11. #11
    Environmental planning as a profession has more to do with compliance with various regulations (e.g. NEPA) determining how development will impact the environment. An environmental planner must have a good handle on the substantive areas of environment (from natural resources to public services, depending on the requriments of your state's NEPA-based laws, etc.) and also on the regulatory environment in which those areas need to be assessed.

    If you want to do actual field work as a biologist or whatever, then you're not really doing planning. You would be collecting data and maybe writing reports and then probably sending that info to planners. Some firms specialize in this type of work, and may be working as subcontractors for other firms which put it all together for the public agency to use in making decisions. They might do just one area of the environment, like geology, biology, cultural resources, etc., or they might be big enough to do many different things. Sometimes they might do an EIS/EA on their own, if the project is especially technical, and other times they may just provide the technical reports on which the EIS/EA uses as supporting information.

    An example of this type of firm is SWCA, one of the larger ones. If you go to their careers page, and look at the employees they're always looking for, they have Biologist/Environmental Scientist. Under that, it says the following:

    SWCA Environmental Consultants is an employee-owned company of cultural and natural resource scientists and planners. Our professionals specialize in natural and cultural resource management, sustainability services, environmental planning, and regulatory compliance.
    So you can see, what they do is more substantive in the science stuff than waht "regular" planners typically get into on a day-to-day basis, although planners like me do some of that stuff, too. I will typically sub-contract some of the work to firms in cases where I know I don't have either the expertise or time. A while back we had someone with more of a biology/natural science background who was able to write the biological sections of our reports, but they're gone now and so we might sub out that work to a company who specializes in that.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I'm not the environmental planner in my department, but just by following state legislation, I know environmental planners (at least in my area) are in demand. Half of my county is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and are subject to strict development guidelines. Each year they get stricter and require our one environmental planner to do more thorough reviews. Presently at this time her work consists of being staff liason to the Wetlands Board, reviews shore line erosion projects, administrator of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Ordinance (CBPA), and our flood plain overlay administrator among other things. She also is able to delineate wetlands and resource protection areas. She spends half of the time out in the field with possible wetland or CBPA ordinance violations. I'm actually thinking about becoming an environmental planner because the work load interests me more than commercial site and subdivision planning.

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