Development Pressure

The Threat

Today, there are significant indications that development and other economic pressures are accelerating the rate of deforestation in New England:

• Two-thirds of the land in the Northern Forest region has changed hands in the last two decades (source: Blue Ribbon Commission)

• Three watersheds in southern Maine rank near the top nationwide for largest projected increase in housing density (source: Forests on the Edge)

• By 2050, 60-70 percent of Rhode Island and Connecticut could be urbanized (source: Journal of Forestry)

• A 2006 survey revealed that 41,000 owners of 1.72 million acres in New England planned to sell some or all of their land in the next five years. A group of 28,000 owners managing another 560,000 acres planned to subdivide their land over the same period

Forest fragmentation, parcelization, and sprawling development can:

• significantly degrade local watersheds and water quality

• reduce possibilities for resource management and forest products

• interrupt and degrade continuous recreation corridors

• decrease aesthetic qualities that attract resident and tourists

• threaten wildlife habitat and decrease biodiversity

• increase costs for municipal and state services that an intact forest ecosystem can provide for free (e.g. clean water, clean air, flood control)

• decrease ecological resilience and health

• decrease flood resilience in a time of increasing extreme weather events 

• decrease our forests’ ability to offset carbon emissions 

The Solution

Thoughtful, place-based development policies (compact development, conservation zoning) can make more efficient use of the land through:

• higher residential dwelling densities

• increased use of public transit systems

• cluster, mixed-use, and compact development

• increasing opportunities to vary land-use, including for agriculture and sustainable timber harvesting

• development policies preventing any net loss of forest carbon

Permanent conservation easements ensure development is channeled to the most appropriate areas and that properties are not inadvertently lost to development during generational transfer. 

Our Role

W&W partners and Regional Conservation Partnerships are working to protect land, inform policy, develop innovative landowner outreach initiatives, and encourage compact development in order to double the pace of conservation and achieve a sensible blend of sustainable development in the region.