Across the West, officials are concerned about controlling growth. They've tried everything from requiring voter approval for large development projects … to selling development rights to conservationists. In the Cascade foothills outside Seattle, for example, lots must be at least 80 acres. Even more remote areas, like Carbon County, Wyoming, have taken steps by enacting a square-mile minimum for land zoned as open range.
How rural areas learn to coexist with rapidly spreading populations is an ongoing issue. But a new study on development pressures may be casting a new light on long-held beliefs.
The new academic study indicates the amount of land used for farming actually increased over the past half-century in areas where populations surged.
Rather than threatening agriculture, the study found urban development in 12 Great Plains states seems to have stabilized farm and ranch production. The study was conducted by three state universities and paid for by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Researchers concluded that urban development actually helped farm production by increasing the demand for hay … and stimulating job growth in the agricultural service sector. Indeed, after large declines in agricultural jobs in the 1950s and 60s, the study found farm employment in the region remained stable.
Peaceful coexistence seems less plausible in other parts of the country. For instance, North Carolina's governor is calling for a four-year extension of the moratorium on new and expanded swine operations that use lagoon and spray irrigation systems.
The extension would push the ban to September of 2007. The moratorium already has been extended on two other occasions and is set to expire this year.
In seeking the extension, Governor Mike Easley said it was time to move away from antiquated waste treatment systems … and for the state's hog industry to prosper without posing a threat to public health and the environment.