Are Working Landscapes Desirable?


Are Working Landscapes Desirable?

Natural Resources

Economic Development

Government Presence

Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Public vs. Private

Urban Sprawl


A working landscape strikes a balance between our economic, ecological, and social needs. It’s also a sign we have successfully responded a number of issues. Those issues include: land ownership, neighbors’ land practices, natural resources, tourism, government presence, business, urban sprawl, and agriculture. So, is a working landscape desirable? In other words, "is it worth it?" Is it worth the trouble, the effort, the time, the money, and the sacrifice? Perhaps the best answer is that it depends on the landscape.

Unique Landscapes
There are some landscapes taken out of production in order to retain their natural states for the foreseeable future. These are ecologically important because they are one-of-a-kind places. They may have rare animals, or a unique geological composition, or cultural importance. Because of their unique qualities, these locations are not good candidates to become working landscapes.

Ignored Landscapes
Some landscapes are uninhabited by humans and not used for economic gain. These are remote areas where economic prospects have not been identified and the conditions are too harsh for human survival. The salt flats of Utah, the arctic tundra, and the desert areas in the southwest are three examples. Because these landscapes would take too much money and effort to make livable, these locations are not good candidates to become working landscapes.

Destroyed Landscapes
A few landscapes have been drastically altered through human actions. They no longer support once native inhabitants. They can't support profitable human economic activity without importing raw materials. Examples include the deforested areas of tropical rainforests, and large feedlots found throughout the Midwest. Because of their lack of economic prospects, these locations are not good candidates to become working landscapes.

Controlled Landscapes
The yard around a house, the side of a road, and city parks and recreation areas are examples of landscapes that are impacted by humans, but not directly used for economic gain. These areas can be actively managed to provide the necessary habitat for some plants and animals, but they cannot be considered working landscapes.

Working Landscapes
There are landscapes inhabited or used by humans in such a way that native plants and animals are able to continue existing in the area in sustainable populations while at the same time the landowners achieve economic gain. Because these locations provide economic prospects while maintaining the area’s ecology and provide a social dimension, they can be considered working landscapes.

We don’t just find working landscapes. We have to make them. Creating a working landscape means that we have to make economic, ecological, and social compromises.

What do you think?
When is a working landscape desirable? When is it not?



Explore More: Working Landscapes
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.





Preservation: Not a Working Landscape
A preserved landscape is a habitat area that is taken out of production so it can retain its natural state into the future. This is land with a quality or characteristic that makes it distinct and unique. More

The Loess Hills as a Working Landscape
"Unique and globally significant," that is how the Loess Hills of western Iowa have been described. The 200-mile expanse of hills contains many distinctive ecosystems and vistas. More

Five Ways of Looking at Landscapes
There are many types of landscapes. Some are more usable than others. The natural state of the land may prevent people from using it. Human actions can limit the use of land as well. More

IPTV Market to Market Links

Global Warming Report Released
Climate change is likely to create more weather extremes such as flooding and drought

Conservation, Non-traditional Crops Take Front Seat in Farm Bill Debate
The House version of the farm bill calls for an increase in the size of the Conservation Reserve Program to 40 million acres. It also seeks a 75 percent increase in baseline spending for other conservation programs.

PBS Newshour Online Links
Bruce Babbit, former Secretary of the Interior, discusses what it took for him to get people together around public land, monuments, forests, and parks.

Web Links
University of Minnesota, Extension Service
These pages look at the relationship between Minnesotans and their land. Many topics relate directly to working landscapes.

Wild Places
Scientific American Frontiers has a whole site dedicated to wild places. Learn about biodiversity from the man who coined the term. Or read how prairies and bison are related.