Smart Growth Principles

Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty and Critical Environmental Areas

"Open space" refers to natural areas that provide important community space, habitat for plants and animals, and recreational opportunities, as well as farm and ranch land (working lands), places of natural beauty, and critical environmental areas (e.g. wetlands). Open space preservation supports smart growth goals by bolstering local economies, preserving critical environmental areas, improving community quality of life, and guiding new growth into existing communities.

There is growing political will to save the "open spaces" that Americans treasure. In recent elections, voters have overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to fund open space protection efforts. Protection of open space provides many fiscal benefits, including increasing local property value (thereby increasing property tax bases), providing tourism dollars, and preventing local tax increases (due to the savings from avoided construction of new infrastructure). Supplies of high quality open space also ensure that prime farm and ranch lands are available, prevent flood damage, and contribute to clean drinking water.

Open space also provides significant environmental quality and health benefits. Open space protects animal and plant habitat, places of natural beauty, and working lands by removing development pressure and redirecting new growth to existing communities. Additionally, preservation of open space benefits the environment by combating air pollution, attenuating noise, controlling wind, providing erosion control, and moderating temperatures. Open space also protects surface- and ground-water resources by filtering trash, debris, and chemical pollutants before they enter a water system.

More information from Smart Growth Network partners:

Sustaining Farms on the Urban Edge

Green Infrastructure

The Benefits of Parks