New Publication: CD Protects Private Lands

Housing development has emerged as a primary driver of land-use change around the world. In the United States, there is particular concern about low-density residential development on rural lands, which often occurs in places with abundant natural amenities. Conservation development (CD), housing development that incorporates protected open space, has emerged as a tool that can accommodate development and achieve land protection, potentially forming networks with existing protected areas. To assess how these developments contribute to housing and conservation at the landscape level, we gathered data on 343 CDs in 13 counties throughout the State of Colorado, U.S.A., including the number, location, and open space configuration of these housing developments. We found that although CDs comprise a small proportion of housing (4% on average), they account for a mean of 11% of privately owned protected lands, and they are often located in close proximity to protected areas (on average <400 m). A majority of these developments (76%) are immediately adjacent to at least one protected area, most commonly the protected open space of other CDs, and more than one-third (33%) of these developments are adjacent to two or more protected areas with different ownership. We conclude that CDs are poised to contribute to conservation at the landscape level in Colorado, given their proximity to protected lands. However, here and elsewhere,strategic placement of these housing developments and well-coordinated open space stewardship will be important if they are to serve as functional parts of protected area networks.