Conservation Planning Tools Assessment


"Planning is indispensable to the difficult process of deciding what land to target for permanent preservation." —Rick Pruetz, FAICP, in Lasting Value

Every year, more than a million acres of rural lands, including forests, farmland, and other open spaces, are converted to development. Based in biological science, "conservation planning" is a growing field that works to identify those areas of land and water that hold the greatest promise for long-term biodiversity protection. Conservation planning is most effective when conducted at multiple scales. Many new advanced tools in conservation planning are offering new insights and modes of inquiry, particularly those that utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize, question, and interpret data. The USDA Forest Service and conservation biology field were interested in planners' interaction with these new tools in their work, since planning is critical to protecting open spaces and negotiating human habitats with sensitive environmental areas. The 2011 Conservation Planning Tools Assessment was designed to assess familiarity with conservation planning goals and objectives, specific conservation planning tools, as well as constraints on planners for implementing conservation planning approaches.

The assessment was administered to APA members. Members were asked to forward the assessment on to the individual in their organization most involved in conservation-related work.

General Characteristics of Respondents

  • 1,872 total respondents
  • 82% work as professional planners (65% public sector; 17% private sector)
  • 58% are members of APA's professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP); 1% are Fellows of AICP (FAICP)
  • Other professions include: Academics (5%), Non-profit (4%), Planning Commissioner/Planning Board Member (2%), Engaged Citizen/Advocate (1%), Land-use Attorney (-1%), Other (5%), No Answer (1%)
  • All U.S. states represented, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
  • 51% work primarily at the municipality level; 26% county; 10% regional or metropolitan area (see Figure 1 below)
  • 56% of all professional planner respondents work in jurisdictions with a population less than 100,000; 19% work in those with more than 500,000 (see Figure 2 below)

Figure 1: Jurisdiction types that respondents reported doing conservation work for.

Figure 1. Jurisdiction types that respondents reported doing conservation work for

Figure 2: Population of respondents' primary jurisdiction for which they've worked on conservation planning (%)

Figure 2. Population of respondents' primary jurisdiction for which they've worked on conservation planning

  • When asked what kinds of conservation planning they were involved with in the previous 12 months, respondents answered with a wide variety of planning issues. The majority included "open space, cultural landscape, and viewshed protection" as part of their work (75%), followed by "stream and river, riparian protection" (50%), "watershed protection" (49%), and "habitat, biodiversity, and endangered species protection" (44%). Others are shown in Figure 2.1 below.

Figure 2.1: In the last 12 months, what types of conservation planning have you been involved with (please select all that apply) (%)?

Figure 2. In the last 12 months, what types of conservation planning have you been involved with?

  • Almost half (49%) of respondents reported to have received assistance from some kind of local land management agency or conservation organization in the previous 12 months (see Figure 3 below). Of those who received assistance, the majority received it from a local land trust or state land management agency (46%). Assistance came from a number of sources as shown in Figure 3.1 below.

Figure 3: Proportion Who Have Received Assistance from Local Land Management or Conservation Organizations in the Last 12 Months

Received Assistance? Percent/Number
Yes 49% (910)
No 48% (896)
No Answer 4% 66)

Figure 3.1: Of Those Who Received Assistance in the Last 12 Months, the Local Land Management and Conservation Organizations Who Provided That Assistance

Organization Percent/Number
Local Land Trust 51% (464)
National Conservation Organization 24% (215)
State Land Management Agency 46% (422)
Local Land Management Agency 30% (273)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services 26% (239)
U.S.D.A. Forest Service 17% (155)
U.S. National Park Service 14% (124)
U.S. Bureau of Land Management 9% (86)
Other State Agency/Organization/Department 5% (46)
Other 18% (162)
Indicated at Least One 99% (905)
No Answer 1% (5)