31 March 2016


We are the bullies of the earth: strong, foul, coarse, greedy, careless, indifferent to others, laying waste as we proceed, leaving wounds, welts, lesions, suppurations on the earth body, increasingly engulfed by our own ordure and, finally, abysmally ignorant of the way the world works, crowing our superiority over all life.

- Ian McHarg

Celebrity endorsement

If you are not already following @geoawesomeness this image should convince you to.

30 March 2016

Shelterbelt landscapes

There was a time when the government paid people to plant trees. In response to the Dust Bowl, FDR created the Prairie States Forestry (Shelterbelt) Project, 1935-1942, which used the CCC and WPA to plant windrows and forests. This was an attempt to plant 220 million trees on private lands across the great plains. The map below shows the scale of the efforts. 

Today's Common Lecture by Sara Karle looks back at the project and traces its current remnants.

Implementing the idea was not as easy as it might have seemed. The science behind the ideas evolved with the project, establishing the idea but gradually improving the understanding of what should be planted and where. Congress designated $1,000,000 annually for labor and the rest was handled through cooperative agreements.

Of the first 6 million trees, 4 million were cottonwoods because they were seen as fast growing. This was disaster relief and needed to be quick.

The impact today is a series of unusually wide corridors of mature trees growing across the plains. Check out Scott Drickey's amazing aerial photographs.


Environmental planning builds on infrastructure that reinforces its efforts. Improving commuting in the NYC Metro area is key to keeping cars off the roads and making communities more livable. CBS says that the Gateway project could do that for Ridgewood.

21 March 2016

Master Plans

As an assigned reading for Fundamentals of Environmental Planning, students should look over this ANJEC piece on municipal Master Plans in New Jersey.  But they can optionally look over this scan of the 2006 Chatham Borough Master Plan. Does the quality of the scan say more about 2006 technology or the Borough's commitment to engaging the public in their plan? Before you judge, the slides from their 2016 update seem much more engaging.

And, in case you lost the link, this great Steve Strom handout on Suitability Analysis.

UCGIS Webinars

UCGIS has two webinars remaining in our 2015-16 season, including a new one just recently added. Attending a UCGIS webinar is always free of charge for those affiliated with our member institutions, and anyone else can participate for a $20 fee.  

 Something for serious Rutgers students to consider.

16 March 2016

Beach day?

A warm sunny day might seem like a good time for sneaking to the shore and walking on the beach. But 2 oceanfront homeowners in Brick say they can't walk to the beach because the state built a wall between their houses and the Atlantic Ocean.

15 March 2016

Is Washington DC a truly walkable city?

Tomorrow we find out.

Religion and zoning

Religion and planning can be  an interesting combination. Despite protections under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), many houses of worship find planning boards to be less than welcoming. The flip side is that many planning boards see applications that think that their religious status exempts them from any legal restrictions.

The Home News and Tribune writes that Hillsborough Township is currently caught up in multiple cases involving zoning of potential sites for religious institutions and their houses of worship.

The NY Times reports on Bernards Township being sued over the zoning change for an Islamic mosque. They say that there were 39 public hearings and lots of demands by public officials. The applicant, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, has as its president former Basking Ridge mayor Ali Chaudry, sothis isn't an outside group unfamiliar with the terrain.

The article suggests that some opponents dropped the land use concerns and opposed the mosque openly because of the religion's ties to Islamic Shariah law.

The planning board says it looked only at basic land use issues. But NJ.com writes about the lawsuit saying that it "also reports in detail how other churches and synagogues in the township met no resistance during their development applications." Based on the level of emotion in the responses online, I doubt that this is the last case we will see like this in our area.

UPDATE 3/15: Tom's River has a different case which is still tied up in landscape and religion.

10 March 2016

Mapping out the Anthropocene

As part of this year's celebration of the 250th anniversary of Rutgers, SEBS has used the theme, Exploring the Anthropocene: The Age of Us.

Pondering the impacts of the Anthropocene is difficult. It is hard to visualize what over 7 billion people look like or increasing species extinction looks like. Esri has developed an Anthropocene story map that helps tell the story of this period and looks at the kinds of steps we can take.

09 March 2016

Wilderness for how long?

I was just talking about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness the other day and now I see that (unbeknownst to me) it is in the news again. The Minnesota Star reports that an EIS was recently completed for a sulfide mine adjacent to the wilderness.

The Star is questioning the quality of that EIS and the impacts it describes. Any impact will be major. But some of it is historic: "PolyMet’s proposal, if permitted, would be the largest single destruction of wetlands in modern Minnesota history."

Teach them young

A group of European designers have proposed a new approach to Pre-K education. Their proposal explores the potential for urban farms to serve as preschools. The idea of garden education is growing in lots of quarters. Atlanta has its Patchwork City Farms where middle school students learn about natural processes. But will these students treat the Earth any better than past generations that grew up on farms?

08 March 2016

Parks on TV

On April 10 PBS stations around the US are airing a special called 10 Parks that Changed America. Watch the preview here.

07 March 2016


Before you get stuck on a tarmack for 20 hours during your spring break travels, check out PlaNetizen's Top Books of 2016. I'll admit that I haven't read any of them yet. But I am particulalry interested in Jared Green's Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World.  It sounds fascinating.

02 March 2016

Good timing

Mother Nature Network posted an article today about 11 nationally protected wetlands you should know about. It asks, "Did you know that the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems also happen to be some of the most fragile and endangered?" But I trust that our students knew that.

Okefenokee might not be a surprise, but Death Valley will be unexpected for many. In any case, some pleasant wetlands photos without as much talk about the storm protection and shoreline protection that wetlands often provide.

1951 case still unresolved

The nation's oldest ongoing civil lawsuit is a case about a water station at the edge of Camp Pendlteon that began in 1951. It is so old that it originally involved Frank Capra. And it is further proof that the case study in The Living Landscape is founded on serious concerns that the neighbors impact the ecology and security of the base.