Land Use

A major focus of our research program is the effects of residential development patterns and landowner stewardship practices on wildlife and biodiversity, as well as land-use planning tools to protect wildlife habitats on private lands. One-quarter of all private lands in the U.S. have been converted to low-density housing development. These rural private lands are the most biologically productive and support the greatest proportion of species, and yet they are also the most threatened. The rapid conversion of private lands to residential development and limited funding for conservation make this a critical time to explore policies and incentives for integrating biological science with land-use planning and development.


Current Projects


Conservation development (CD) is a residential building style designed to decrease negative environmental impacts by clustering houses in a small portion of a property while preserving the remaining land as protected open space. Our field study examined how design and stewardship factors such as open space size, land use, and development configuration influenced birds and mammals in CD subdivisions in northern Colorado. By understanding how CD affects wildlife, we can evaluate whether it is an effective tool for private lands conservation and make recommendations to developers and land-use planners for the successful design of future CD projects.

View a recent webinar by Cooper Farr entitled "Social and Ecological Aspects of Conservation Development as a Strategy for Biodiversity Conservation on Private Lands."


The overall goal of this study is to examine how individual land stewardship and landowner activities, operating within a regional land-use context, shape human impacts on biological communities, and how understanding this relationship can lead to better management and ecologically healthier landscapes. Specifically, our objectives are to: (1) Relate bird and mammal habitat use and relative activity levels to land stewardship and human activities in exurban subdivisions; and (2) Evaluate the relative importance of human activities versus habitat alteration in influencing bird and mammal community structure. Results of this study will suggest how private land stewardship can be modified to improve ecological health and wildlife species persistence in the Greater Yellowstone and Adirondack Park ecosystems.