The Land of Sky Regional Council of Governments worked with leaders from across the four-county region to develop a strategic plan for conservation and development. This project brought together data from public, private, and non-profit sources, resulting in a series of maps and other tools that can be used to help guide land use decisions across the landscape. The goal was to understand how the natural systems function across the entire region.
While many groups and municipalities focus their land use-related efforts on smaller subsets of the region, the Linking Lands project used a landscape perspective to understand the region as a whole—natural systems don't stop at county boundaries, or at the edges of a land trust's focus area. This regional approach provided a broader context that helped to knit together these disparate efforts and provide opportunities for leverage and partnership to implement conservation and growth management priorities.
Using the green infrastructure approach, the Linking Lands project identified a physical network comprised of region's most valuable natural systems—including lands that provide water resources, agricultural lands (farms and forests), wildlife habitat and large functioning ecosystems, recreation lands, and cultural resources. This science-based approach incorporated the most current data from local and state agencies, the land trust community, and the "on the ground" knowledge of local experts. A series of Ecological Assessments—conducted by local partners—finalized in the fall of 2009 served as the backbone for the regional green infrastructure assessment. Following this assessment, partners came together through public charrettes to explore future growth scenarios and other factors that impact the region's natural systems, including climate change, invasive species, and other natural disturbances. As a result, Land of Sky Regional Council developed a Regional Conservation and Development Network that is serving as a resource for local governments, land trusts, landowners, and developers.