Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged to regulate chemicals and protect human health by safeguarding the natural environment: air, water, and land. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when its establishment was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States. It is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The EPA is not a Cabinet agency, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank. Lisa P. Jackson is the current Administrator. The agency has approximately 18,000 full-time employees.

The Environmental Protection Agency or "EPA employs 18,000 people across the country, including their headquarters offices in Washington, DC, 10 regional offices, and more than a dozen labs. Their staff is highly educated and technically trained; more than half are engineers, scientists, and policy analysts. In addition, a large number of employees are legal, public affairs, financial, information management and computer specialists"

So what does the EPA Do?

The EPA leads the nation's environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. Their mission is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, the EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

On July 9, 1970, President Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the Environmental Protection Agency as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner, safer America.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Urbanism

New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning.

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards prominent before the rise of the automobile and encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to Regionalism and Environmentalism.

The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:

“We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”

New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.

Until the mid 20th century, cities were generally organized into and developed around mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. For most of human history this meant a city that was entirely walkable, although with the development of mass transit the reach of the city extended outward along transit lines, allowing for the growth of new pedestrian communities such as streetcar suburbs. But with the advent of cheap automobiles and favorable government policies, attention began to shift away from cities and towards ways of growth more focused on the needs of the car.

This new system of development, with its rigorous separation of uses, became known as "conventional suburban development" or pejoratively as urban sprawl, arose after World War II. The majority of U.S. citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last fifty years, and automobile use per capita has soared.

In 1991, the Local Government Commission, a private nonprofit group in Sacramento, California, invited architects Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stefanos Polyzoides, and Daniel Solomon to develop a set of community principles for land use planning. Named the Ahwahnee Principles (after Yosemite National Park's Ahwahnee Hotel), the commission presented the principles to about one hundred government officials in the fall of 1991, at its first Yosemite Conference for Local Elected Officials.

Calthorpe, Duany, Moule, Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, and Solomon founded the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism in 1993. The CNU has grown to more than 3,000 members, and is the leading international organization promoting new urbanist design principles. It holds annual Congresses in various U.S. cities.

New Urbanism is a broad movement that spans a number of different disciplines and geographic scales. And while the conventional approach to growth remains dominant, New Urbanist principles have become increasingly influential in the fields of planning, architecture, and public policy.

The principles of New Urbanism are:

1. Walkability

  • Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
  • Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
  • Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

2. Connectivity

  • Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
  • A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
  • High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

3. Mixed-Use & Diversity

  • A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
  • Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races

4. Mixed Housing-

  • A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity (Duplexes, Small Lots, Condos, Townhouses, etc)

5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

  • Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

  • Discernable center and edge
  • Public space at center
  • Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
  • Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
  • Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

7. Increased Density

  • More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
  • New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

8. Green Transportation

  • A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
  • Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

9. Sustainability

  • Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
  • Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
  • Energy efficiency
  • Less use of finite fuels
  • More local production
  • More walking, less driving

10. Quality of Life

  • Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.
Click here for more information about New Urbanism: The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community by Peter Katz.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Brownfields are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.

In the United States city planning jargon, Brownfield land (or simply a Brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up. Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, such as a Superfund site, does not fall under the Brownfield classification. Mothballed Brownfields are properties which the owners are not willing to transfer or put to productive reuse.

The term brownfields first came into use on June 28, 1992, at a U.S Congressional field hearing hosted by the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition. Also in 1992, the first detailed policy analysis of the issue was convened by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The United States Environmental Protection Agency selected Cuyahoga County as its first Brownfield pilot project in September 1993.

Generally, Brownfield sites exist in a city's or town's industrial section, on locations with abandoned factories or commercial buildings, or other previously polluting operations. Small brownfields also may be found in many older residential neighborhoods. For example, many dry cleaning establishments or gas stations produced high levels of subsurface contaminants during prior operations, and the land they occupy might sit idle for decades as a Brownfield.

Some state governments restrict development of Brownfield sites to particular uses in order to minimize exposure to leftover contaminants on-site after the cleanup is completed; such properties are deed-restricted in their future usage. Some legally require that such areas are reused for housing or for new commercial use in order not to destroy further arable land. The redevelopment of Brownfield sites is a significant part of new urbanism. Some brownfields are left as green spaces for recreational uses.

For historical reasons, many Brownfield sites are close to important thoroughfares such as highways and rivers; their reclamation can therefore be a major asset to a city. An example of this is the Atlantic Station project in Atlanta, the largest Brownfield redevelopment in the United States. In Seattle, rusted remains of a gas factory were left in place to add character to Gas Works Park.

But one of the most well-known areas in the United States for Brownfield redevelopment is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has successfully converted numerous former steel mill sites into high-end residential, shopping and offices. Several examples of Brownfield redevelopment in Pittsburgh include the following:
  • The Waterfront in Homestead, Pennsylvania previously occupied by Carnegie Steel
  • Summerset at Frick Park in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood
  • Southside Works, a mixed-use development in the South Side neighborhood
  • Pittsburgh Technology Center in the Hazelwood (Pittsburgh) neighborhood
  • Washington’s Landing, a waterfront center for commerce, manufacturing, and housing in Herr's Island
For more information about Brownfield Regeneration: Sustainable Brownfield Regeneration: Liveable Places from Problem Spaces by Tim Dixon, Mike Raco, Philip Catney, and David N. Lerner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

American Horticultural Society

American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (The American Horticultural Society)The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is a nonprofit, membership-based organization that promotes excellence in American horticulture. It is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
Established in 1922, the AHS is one of the oldest national gardening organizations in the United States. Today's organization resulted from the merger of three gardening groups: the current namesake American Horticultural Society, the National Horticultural Society, and the American Horticultural Council.
In addition to publishing horticultural reference books, the American Horticultural Society publishes a bi-monthly magazine, The American Gardener, which is a member benefit. Other benefits of membership include participation in the annual seed exchange, discounted or free admission into participating botanic gardens and arboretums across the United States, and discounted admission into AHS events and programs.
The American Horticultural Society conducts various events annually, to educate and inspire gardeners. Each summer the AHS conducts the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium, which is a forum for educators, garden designers, community leaders, and children’s gardening advocates to network and collaborate on techniques and practices to engage children with the natural world. Numerous Garden Schools are also conducted annually, covering various topics from gardening with native plants to sustainable gardening.
Society headquarters are located at River Farm, overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. Annual events at River Farm include hosting an annual spring plant sale, educational lectures, and a gala fundraiser each fall. Education is further instilled in the Society’s internship program, which hires interns in editorial/communications, youth programs, website development and maintenance, and horticulture. The Horticultural and Corporate Partners programs join other allied organizations who help to support the Society’s vision of making a nation of gardeners.

For more reading on the practices of the American Horticultural Society: American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Christopher Brickell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community Gardens

City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in AmericaThe majority of Community Gardens are available for public use, and provide the community with green space. In addition to green space they are spaces of recreation, social gatherings, beautification, and education for the community. Community gardens are often managed and maintained by those who have a plot in the garden, rather than a hired staff. Dividing the garden into individual plots or tending the garden in a communal fashion, ensures that the garden is always cared for.

Some influential community gardens, are:
There are many different types of community gardens. Some resemble European "allotment" gardens, with plots where individuals or groups can grow vegetables and flowers. Others are devoted to creating ecological green space, growing flowers, educational purposes, or providing access to gardening to those who otherwise could not have a garden (i.e. the elderly, homeless, and or yardless.)

"The majority of community gardening programs are collections of individual garden plots. Frequently the plot sizes are between 3m × 3m (10'×10') and 6m × 6m (20'×20'). This is consistent with community gardens sponsored by public agencies such as Park and Recreation Districts, city departments, large non-profits, or a coalition of different entities and groups. Plot holders typically are asked to pay a modest fee each year and abide by a set of rules to maintain the gardens productivity. Work days, fundraisers, and social gatherings are often encouraged. "Community garden organizers typically say that "growing community" is as important as growing vegetables, or, as the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) puts it: 'In community gardening, 'community' comes first.'"

(The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is non-profit organization of volunteers, professionals and member-organizations working in support of community greening in rural and urban areas across Canada and the United States. ACGA and its member organizations work together to promote community food and ornamental gardening, preservation and management of open space, urban forestry, and integrated planning and management of developing urban and rural lands.)

"The European history of community gardening in the US dates back to the early 1700s, when Moravians created a community garden as part of the community of Bethabara, near modern Winston-Salem, North Carolina - a garden still active and open for visitors today! First Nations peoples also gardened with a community approach (Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden paints a picture of gardens among the Hidatsa), likely for generations before the arrival of waves of immigrants."

For more reading on Community Gardens: City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America. By Laura J. Lawson.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Horticulture is the study and science of plant cultivation. Horticulturists work and research in the fields of cultivation, plant propagation, plant breeding genetic engineering, and crop production. Horticulture involves trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, and turf. Horticulturists work to improve the quality, nutritional value, resistance to diseases insects and environmental conditions, and crop yield. Horticulture is the compound of the words horti, meaning grass, and the word culture (grass culture.)

Some of the earliest origins of horticulture lie in the transition of human communities from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary or semi-sedentary horticultural communities, where they would cultivate on a smaller scale a variety of crops in the immediate area of their dwellings or in specialized areas visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. The most widely know beginnings of horticulture are found in the Mesoamerican cultures, where they would use a method know as slash and burn or areas know as swiddens. The technique was to cultivate a plot of land and then after a few seasons they would abandon the site and cut down or burn the forests of a new area to cultivate that area.

For more reading on Horticulture: Principles of Horticulture 5th Edition. By C. R. Adams - K. M. Bamford - M. P. EarlyPrinciples of Horticulture, Fifth Edition

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

The Art of Landscape Architecture (American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series)The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association representing Landscape Architecture in the United States. At is beginning on January 4, 1899 ASLA started out with less than 15 members; They now have more than 18,000 members and 48 chapters, representing all 50 American states, US territories, and 68 countries around the world. The goals of the American Society of Landscape Architects were to "establish landscape architecture as a recognized profession in North America," "develop educational studies in landscape architecture," and "provide a voice of authority in the 'New Profession.'" Their current goals, which are: to raise awareness of the profession, and legislative advocacy on issues that matter most to the profession, including licensure, haven't deviated a bit from their origins.

The American Society of Landscape Architects works to increase the public’s awareness of and appreciation for the profession of landscape architecture. ASLA is an active advocate for the profession at the local, state and national levels on public policy issues including licensure, livable communities, sustainable design, surface transportation, the environment, historic preservation, small business issues, and more.

For more information or to become a member of ASLA visit www.ASLA.org.

For some of the many American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series: The Art of Landscape Architecture by Samuel Parsons. Follow this link for a the entire list of books on the American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series.

Monday, September 7, 2009

US Forest Service

Forest ServiceThe US Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that watches over the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. These areas encompass 193 million acres of United States soil. The National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and the branch of Research and Development are all divisions of the US Forest Service.

In 1876, Congress created the office of Special Agent in the Department of Agriculture to assess the state of the forests in the United States. Appointed head of the office was Franklin B. Hough. And In 1881, the office was expanded into the, at that time, newly formed Division of Forestry. Some of the acts that were passed by the Forest Service were the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 which authorized the withdraw of land parcels from the public domain as forest reserves. This land was managed by the Department of the Interior. In 1901, the Division of Forestry was renamed the Bureau of Forestry. The Transfer Act of 1905 transferred the management of forest reserves from the General Land Office of the Interior Department to the Bureau of Forestry, now known as the US Forest Service. The first Chief Forester of the US Forest Service and Landscape Architect was Gifford Pinchot.There are now forests across the United States in his name.
Some of the federal legislation which affects the Forest Service includes:

For an extensive history of the United States Forest Service: The U.S. Forest Service: A HistoryThe U.S. Forest Service: A History by Harold K Steen.

Sustainability News

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.