Linking lands communities: Linda Giltz outlines Land-of-Sky Regional Council's plans for connection and conservation.

Author:Giltz, Linda


Land-of-Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) is working with individuals and organizations across a four-county region p to develop a regional plan to ensure that our natural and cultural resources are preserved and that our economy, derived from these and other resources, remains healthy. The science-based plan will contain maps that identify areas valuable because of their ecological systems and services--including farmlands, forests, water resources, wildlife habitat and recreation areas--and areas that are most suited for future growth and development.

The Linking Lands and Communities (LLC) project is bringing together scientists, community and business leaders, farmers, owners of large public and private tracts of land, local government staff and officials, developers and interested citizens to design a regional conservation and development network. With this highly collaborative approach, the project aims to strengthen and; link rural and urban communities and protect the area's rich natural and cultural heritage. [See the sidebar at right for a complete list of project partners.]

This conservation and development network and accompanying implementation strategies will provide information, tools and inspiration to strategically guide future development for Madison, Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties. It is designed to complement current city and county planning efforts and to be a resource for decision makers and developers. The network will be linked to similar efforts across WNC and the state. And, this model process is designed so that it can be replicated throughout Western North Carolina and beyond in the future.

Why is the LLC project needed? How does it address our communities'/region's issues?

The North Carolina mountain region's population is growing, and land is being sold and subdivided at a fast rate. The Land-of-Sky four-county region had a population of about 200,000 in 1960 and 350,000 in 2000, and it is expected to approach 500,000 in 2030. Almost all of our growth is from people moving here from other places. As we grow, people are spreading out across the landscape, with almost two-thirds of the region's population living outside of city/town limits in the unincorporated areas of our counties.

This spread-out pattern of development breaks up open spaces, forests and farmland. It makes it harder for farmers to keep farming, to provide public services to residents, and to attract businesses...

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