The Highlands study area is not a singular condition. Rather, it is a collection of distinct, highly charismatic landscapes. The two largest of these landscapes are the Highlands proper and the Great Valley—two thick belts of high-performing ecology supporting the region’s population. At just over 30-miles from the core, these landscapes are the metropolitan region’s “near nature”—one mountainous and forested, the other a vast fertile valley. Between this near nature and the Inner Ring lies a third major landscape condition—what we refer to as the Lowland Front—an area of towns and transportation, suburbs and job centers. It is the interface of these landscapes that is the focus of our study.
In order for the metropolitan region to grow, we must guide and concentrate future growth while increasing the productivity of resource lands, not simply conserve them as they are.
PORT and Range propose an approach that connects and intertwines conservation and development, rather than seeing the two as inevitably in conflict. By intensifying reliance on existing and new tools and institutions—transfer of development rights, conservation banks, and carbon markets, for example—the region can establish an exchange of resources that allows cities downstream to secure ecosystem services and flood storage upstream where they can be produced more efficiently and at scale. Multi-purpose landscape infrastructural ways built and maintained with this money will dramatically increase environmental capacity. The team proposes to accommodate future populations by concentrating them in established towns and new centers on low-ecological value land near transportation routes and job centers. This new settlement will utilize hybrid development models with strong relationships to the landscapes that attract people to the Highlands.
Through complete integration of conservation and development, ecosystems and economies, design and management, the PORT and Range vision for the Highland’s future fully embodies the goals of the Fourth Plan.
Many small basins store flood water for several hours to relieve downstream flooding in cities. Management of deer restores balance of forest and wildlife, and creates Geneways.
Hybrid development formats tie landscape performance and character (ecosystem service upgrades) to bonuses and incentives related to the production of new concentrated settlement in low-ecological value landscapes adjacent to, or nearby existing population centers and transport.
Large-scale landscape infrastructure for flood control, recreation, habitat, water quality and carbon sequestration that boosts the economies of towns and farmers
A central component of our work is a broad communications campaign to increase understanding of the distinct features of the existing Highlands’ landscape.