Environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) are landscape elements or places which are vital to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity, soil, water or other natural resources both on the site and in a regional context. They include wildlife habitat areas, steep slopes, wetlands, and prime agricultural lands. When ESAs are interconnected, they could form greenway corridors consisting of networks of linked landscape elements that provide ecological, recreational, and cultural benefits to a community. By implication, the planning process which communities use in protecting ESAs could serve as a template for developing greenway corridors. Many communities faced with the pressures of balancing economic development with environmental protection recognize that uncontrolled development may lead to an irreversible loss of ESAs. Communities, therefore, develop local comprehensive plans that identify the geographical distribution of ESAs, and specify land-use strategies and regulations for protecting them. However, this traditional form of identifying and protecting ESAs inhibits the potential for connecting them into a greenway corridor for many reasons: (1) the rationale for identifying and protecting ESAs is based on an exclusionary process that designates areas not appropriate for development; (2) the procedures for assessing ESAs are based predominantly on their geographical distribution, with little consideration of their functioning or the flow of nutrients, species, and energy between the landscape elements; (3) the identification and protection of ESAs focus on individual landscape elements such as flood plains and steep slopes, resulting in habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation is perpetuated further by the implementation of land-use controls such as conventional zoning, which focuses predominantly on protecting individual landscape elements rather than integrating them with adjacent landscape elements and land uses. Moreover, communities vary in their capacity to develop and implement appropriate land-use controls that would minimize further fragmentation. This paper documents a pilot study that demonstrates the application of a modified abiotic-biotic-cultural (ABC) strategy for assessing ESAs and connecting them into greenway corridors in Wallon County, Georgia. The ABC method permits assessment of the structure (descriptive) and function (relational) characteristics of the landscape for relative ecological values, which become the basis for designing greenways that serve specific ecological functions. Application of the method reveals that assessing ESAs and the interconnected landscape elements provides a vehicle for developing greenway corridors that serve primarily as a conduit for the movement of animals and secondarily as areas for the protection of water quality. To provide for the sustained management of the proposed greenway corridors, procedural guidelines are prescribed for integrating the resultant greenway plan into Walton County's comprehensive plan. © 1995.
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