Throughout history, geological features have shaped our greatest cities. From the rivers that bound the island of Manhattan to the mountains that form Rio de Janeiro, challenging terrain has created many of our densest and most beautiful cities. So, what can a city like Orlando do to control its outward growth? Because Central Floridian cities like Orlando exist on a plane field, with only small lakes and distant oceans as environmental constraints, they easily fall victim to sprawl. One answer is to create an urban growth boundary, or UGB, through land protection.
Orlando does not have a UGB policy like Portland’s, for example, which is defined by state law. Nonetheless, preservationists have taken a careful look at Central Florida’s most important natural features and taken steps to protect them. In doing so, government agencies and environmental non-profits have created an almost-complete UGB around the metro area.
The protected natural buffer around the Orlando metropolis is an important source for the region’s water supply. Furthermore, it provides migration paths and nesting areas for some of the state’s endangered species, including the Florida panther, the manatee, and the American bald eagle. Some of the most ecologically important lands have been dedicated to a group of sites known as the Seven Jewels of Central Florida.
Despite these strides over the past two decades, a recovering housing market means that many more natural areas will be threatened by sprawling development. However, progressive planning policies in the region’s cities, paired with a continued interest in land preservation and conservation, can help sustain a natural Central Florida.
What do you think are other benefits of preservation or conservation?
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