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Land Use and Environmental Planning Focus Area

At the heart of land use and environmental planning are a host of environmental and social sustainability implications related to the location and intensity of human activities across cities and regions. Many regions in the United States and worldwide are undergoing simultaneous processes of suburban sprawl and urban decline, along with other related challenges to the quality of urban areas, including ecosystem fragmentation and degradation, air and water pollution, and aesthetic decline—all yielding cities and regions that can be unhealthy, unjust, ugly, dull, and unfulfilling places to live. Within this context, this focus area seeks to enable students to inform decision-making processes related to land development and the ongoing use of land in both urban areas experiencing disinvestment and exurban/rural areas facing development pressure. The focus area aims to imbue the professional practice of land use and environmental planning with awareness of the sustainability and social justice implications of public decisions that shape place in cities and regions, toward the end of promoting cities and regions that are healthy, ecologically and economically vibrant, economically and socially just, and desirable places to live, work, and play.

Students learn to recognize the value-based and analytical conflicts common to land development and environmental planning debates and to employ planning and policymaking approaches to resolve those disputes. The challenge is to guide land development in some places and the adjustment to population loss in others in ways that preserve and restore the ecological integrity of urban and rural systems while improving the quality of life for all residents, facilitating a vital economy, promoting the efficient use of land and community facilities such as public buildings and parklands, and respecting fiscal and legal requirements. The skills of the land use and environmental planner include developing and deploying a solid understanding of: the policy tools for shaping land use, including regulation, investment, subsidy and others; the economic and political feasibility of alternative land use and land development schemes; and the societal and environmental implications of land-related decisions.

Through practice, land use and environmental planners address a wide array of overlapping issues such as sprawl and intergovernmental growth management; the relationship between land use and transportation systems; the relationship between economic development and environmental protection; open space and farmland preservation; brownfield redevelopment; transboundary environmental issues; and environmental justice. Land use and Updated 2018 08 2 environmental planners find employment in local, regional, state, and federal government agencies; as private sector planning consultants; and in environmental and community nonprofit organizations.

 The student should courses (especially those recommended below) to complete a program of study that best fits his or her interests.


Focus Area Course List

Foundational Courses 

URP 540 Land Use Planning and Development Management (required)
URP 541 Urban Land Use Planning
URP 542 Environmental Planning
URP 543 State and Local Land Management

Techniques / Methods Courses 

URP 520 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (or EAS 531)
URP 522 Collaborative Planning (or EAS 532 or EAS 533)

Other Related Courses 

URP 521 Intermediate Geographic Information Systems
URP 525 Regional Planning
URP 528 Food Systems Planning
URP 532 Sustainable Development
URP 544 Behavior and Environment (EAS 560)
URP 553 Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture
URP 554 Liquid Planning
URP 560 Transportation and Land Use Planning
EAS 512 Strategies for Sustainable Development I: Environmental Strategy
EAS 513 Strategies for Sustainable Development II: Managing Social Issues
EAS 531 Principles of Geographic Information Systems
EAS 533 Negotiating Skills in Environmental Dispute Resolution
EAS 534 GIS and Landscape Modeling
EAS 550 Systems Thinking for Sustainable Enterprise
EAS 561 Psychology of Environmental Stewardship
EAS 566 Public Opinion and the Environment
EAS 571 Environmental Economics
EAS 572 Environmental Impact Assessment (EHS 572)
EAS 593 Environmental Justice: New Directions
EAS 662 Seminar in Resource Policy and Administration
EAS 686 Politics of Environmental Regulation (PUBPOL563, HMP 686)

Faculty associated with the focus area

Richard Norton (Focus Area Coordinator)
Scott Campbell
Robert Goodspeed
Lesli Hoey
Douglas Kelbaugh
Larissa Larsen
Jonathan Levine
Ana Paula Pimentel Walker
June Manning Thomas
Jeff Kahan (Lecturer)
Wendy Rampson (Lecturer)

Plan Your Future
Housing, Community, and Economic Development
Land Use and Environmental Planning
Physical Planning and Design
Transportation Planning
Global and Comparative Planning