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Planning For The Future, A Bioregional Approach

While winter may not boast the caravans of tourists we often see in the summer, there are still noticeable seasonal influxes in cities across the country. So, how does a city plan for this? A recent study by researchers at Utah State University highlights the use of bioregional planning for this purpose.


“Bioregional planning - it has its feet in three different aspects of a community. It looks at both social and economic, as well as biophysical features,” said Aubie Douglas, a recent graduate student from the Bioregional Planning Program at Utah State.

Douglas and her colleagues conducted a bioregional planning approach to Moab and Castle Valley, in southeastern Utah. Their findings indicate different planning aspects accommodate for different types of growth.  


“So there were six that we deemed our assessment models which are unique and vulnerable land uses that we want to maintain for future generations and then we identified six for our allocation model systems and those were areas where certain land uses that were viable for the region would be expanded or developed further. So those are things like extraction industries” Douglas said.


Researchers then weighed these models with input from community members, who didn’t always rank their priorities for land use similarly.


“That’s where the alternative futures come in," Douglas said. "So we made a matrix with different aspects of the local community. So on opposite ends of each axis, we’ll have preservation and economic development and on the other axis, we’ll have locals versus tourists because those are the dynamics that we found really present in the community”.


Asked whether this planning approach could apply to other popular tourist destinations, Douglas said “it could definitely be used for those types of situations where you have this rapid or major seasonal influx. Economic whiplash is what we were calling it when we were talking to stakeholders.”


In Moab, researchers found water resources and tourist displacement to be a common theme across the alternative futures.

Read the planning report here.