Biodiversity conservation in local planning.
Local land-use policy is increasingly being recognized as fundamental to biodiversity conservation in the United States. Many planners and conservation scientists have called for broader use of planning and regulatory tools to support the conservation of biodiversity at local scales. Yet little is known about the pervasiveness of these practices. We conducted an on-line survey of county, municipal, and tribal planning directors (n =116) in 3 geographic regions of the United States: metropolitan Seattle, Washington; metropolitan Des Moines, Iowa; and the Research Triangle, North Carolina. Our objectives were to gauge the extent to which local planning departments address biodiversity conservation and to identify factors that facilitate or hinder conservation actions in local planning. We found that biodiversity conservation was seldom a major consideration in these departments. Staff time was mainly devoted to development mandates and little time was spent on biodiversity conservation. Regulations requiring conservation actions that might benefit biodiversity were uncommon, with the exception of rules governing water quality in all 3 regions and the protection of threatened and endangered species in the Seattle region. Planning tools that could enhance habitat conservation were used infrequently. Collaboration across jurisdictions was widespread, but rarely focused on conservation. Departments with a conservation specialist on staff tended to be associated with higher levels of conservation actions. Jurisdictions in the Seattle region also reported higher levels of conservation action, largely driven by state and federal mandates. Increased funding was most frequently cited as a factor that would facilitate greater consideration of biodiversity in local planning. There are numerous opportunities for conservation biologists to play a role in improving conservation planning at local scales.