Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Administration Report Says Development Doubled on Farms, Forests during '90S

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Administration Report Says Development Doubled on Farms, Forests during '90S

Article excerpt

The Clinton Administration recently released new figures showing that the conversion of farmland, forests and other open space to development more than doubled during the past decade. The new figures are contained in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 1997 National Resources Inventory. The data shows that nationally, nearly 16 million acres of forest, cropland, and open space were converted to urban, commercial and other uses from 1992 to 1997. The report further discloses that the most recent average rate of conversion to development of 3.2 million acres annually, is more than twice the rate of conversion that was recorded from 1982 to 1992 (1.4 million acres annually).

The issue of sprawl and unplanned growth was placed on the agenda of the National League of Cities this year. At the recent Congress of Cities in Los Angeles, new policy language was approved advocating that local governments, through NLC, should work with the federal government to eliminate or change federal policies and regulations that encourage unplanned growth, such as provisions in the federal tax code or in housing or environmental protection rules. This issue has also been taken up by the Administration, which has proposed a "Livability" Program that would make $10 billion in federal funds available for initiatives to purchase undeveloped land and create parks and more open space.

This sharp increase in the rate of commercial and subdivision development reflects a growing concern nationally that sprawl and unplanned growth are eroding this country's quality of life. Vice President Al Gore, who has been the leading Administration official in efforts to control sprawl and encourage smart growth, said that the loss of farmland is no longer centered predominantly around major urban areas, but is affecting growing numbers of small- and mid-sized cities. …

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