Open Space is a Finite Resource

Open space is not a renewable resource. It is finite.

Open space in Vermont -- view from Mad River Glen in September 2010.

It seems like an obvious statement. Once open space is developed, it likely never will be returned to a natural state. Preservation, as a whole, understands this concept. Master plans often center growth in specific areas. Our National Parks, wildlife refuges, scenic areas, and similar conservation areas work to protect our invaluable, limited open space. Segments of land may be slated for development, but for future generations. After all, it is likely that our population continues to grow and land continues to be developed.

Will we ever run out of space? Hopefully not in our lifetime, right? But what about a few generations after us?

I heard this statement about open space at a workshop this week, the first of seven classes of Road Ecology training, The course is taught by Keeping Track, an organization that provides technical training to a variety of professionals and citizens in order to promote better knowledge of how to monitor, detect and record wildlife. The Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife  work together to coordinate this training and encourage their employees to take the class; it has been a great success.

The purpose of ecology training in relation to transportation brings us back to the fact that everything is connected. Transportation projects can impact the environment and the landscape in many ways, positive or negative, seen or unseen. When people beyond the biologists understand how intertwined the ecosystems are, it allows transportation staff to see projects differently and to develop creative, innovative solutions that allow our roads and transportation systems to be safe for humans and wildlife. In addition, those not in transportation can gain a better understanding of the safety and construction standards that must be met. Collaboration on site, like a planning charrette, brings out the most innovative solutions.

Day one was an introduction to reptiles, animals and wildlife tracking. While it is not historic preservation, it is a unique opportunity to learn more about how decisions are made beyond cultural resources. Designing a bridge or a roadway that is safe for wildlife has the potential to affect cultural resources, and vice versa.

Wildlife, open space, cultural resources, transportation — the connections are clear as a bell. Stay tuned throughout the next few months for course highlights and important lessons.