Policy has a major impact on people’s land use decisions and ultimately the environment we live in. We research the impacts of diverse land use policies on both the land use decisions and the environment. In particular we have conducted research on  the impact of zoning, alternative development schemes and protected areas. We have conducted research in both the United States and abroad.

Zoning & Planning

Zoning and planning are the major local policies which influence land use in the United States.  These policies are ubiquitous, and yet it is not clear that they are working as envisioned. 

We have research the impact of shoreline zoning and exclusive agricultural zoning. In our studies we found that shoreline zoning was effective at reducing the impacts of housing development on some ecologically sensitive lakes, although on lakes already developed, it had little further impact.  Exclusive agricultural zoning had little impact in our study area. 

Fire & Development

Land use planning has a major impact on fire regimes. This may be especially true in Southern California, where humans start most fires. We have been studying how different types of development (compact, dispersed, and leap-frog) impact fire risk in San Diego County. We found significantly higher fire risk in dispersed and leap-frog scenarios.  

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Protected Areas

Protected areas are a cornerstone of global biodiversity conservation, but many are concerned that they are not functioning as envisioned.  We have an established research program in assessing the effectiveness of protected areas, the timing of their establishment, and the impacts of protected area establishment on surrounding land use.  In addition we have developed techniques to optimally establish protected areas in dynamic feedback laden systems.   Ongoing projects include researching the effectiveness of protected  areas after political shocks in the former Soviet Union.