Land Management @ Scale
Authors: Jessica M. Henson, Trevor Lee, Andrew Dobshinsky, Joanna Karaman, Claire Casstevens, Sarah Swanseen, Abbey Catig
The Green New Deal will be won or lost at scale: the scale of planning must match the scale of our impacts on the land. Landscape architecture practice focuses largely on cities and towns, passing over ninety-seven percent of the American landscape and missing the opportunity to make significant advances on climate and environmental goals through the critical path of large-scale land management. Balancing complex and layered needs of regional and territorial land management can have positive climate impacts, strengthen ecological health, and better manage natural resources while promoting access, recreation, economic benefit, and cultural opportunities. This provides a framework for management and protection of park networks, corridors, and critical resources while dynamically accommodating inevitable growth.
Unfortunately, few entities can reach this level of cross-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional coordination due to various factors, including lack of funding, illegibility of process, or lack of political support for long-term planning when short-term “wins” often drive elections. Therefore, models for multi-benefit land management need to be amplified to create a dialogue around possibilities and incentives.
Projects must address territorial issues through multi-benefit planning for water, people, and the environment that integrates land management best practices. This requires understanding what lands are most critical, who the players are within a region’s network of land management and ownership, and how multi-benefit lands can be amplified through a toolkit of strategies. When combined, the “what, who, and how” of large-scale planning and land management can create economic and environmental benefits that truly match the scale of our global impacts.
OLIN’s practice seeks to realize just, ecologically sound landscapes, creating opportunities for all forged from our diverse talents, cultures, and perspectives. Today, our common futures are threatened by numerous inequities and the dire environmental dilemmas perpetuated by our carbon-dependent economies. House Resolution 109, which charts how the climate crisis exacerbates environmental, social, and economic injustices, and proposes an immediate and large-scale response, is a powerful platform for realizing this design agenda. OLIN and the landscape architecture profession are positioned to assist in the crucial effort of designing for conservation, transformation, and climate and community resiliency. We recognize that this urgent work must build on the efforts—and recognize the sacrifices—already made by frontline and vulnerable communities. OLIN has developed a two-prong strategy. The first is to submit a selection of current and past projects that most align with the Green New Deal’s aims to the Superstudio initiative to provide tangible examples of successes and challenges. The second initiative is for OLIN Labs to commit to making 2021 the Year of the Green New Deal through research, vision, and design that leans on the fabric of actual projects and living relationships with partners, clients, and communities. We are excited to undertake this commitment in solidarity with our field, nonprofits, activists, researchers, planners, allied design and engineering professions, and policy and governmental partners.
These are our objectives: 1. Envision and communicate the role of Landscape Architecture practitioners in realizing a Green New Deal. 2. Strengthen OLIN’s capacity to address systemic challenges by running a series of internal design studios and research initiatives through the spring of 2021. 3. Develop and utilize tools to measure our work’s impact and outcomes across social, economic, ecological, and environmental spectrums.
Four teams within our office have organized practice-based design studios run by OLIN staff through June 2021, as part of the LAF Superstudio. Another four teams have launched longer-term research and advocacy initiatives that will run through the end of 2021 and beyond. These initiatives are all aligned with the tenets and goals of the Green New Deal and may ultimately take the form of education series, grant proposals, or venues for community-building. All eight teams have built upon existing external partnerships with community groups, public representatives, and allied professionals. We are thrilled to see the diversity of ideas that these teams have developed. Studios range from expanding our profession’s toolkit for good job creation, to a new biochar economy, large scale land management strategies, LGBTQ+ cultural heritage sites, and social justice for fence-line communities impacted by fossil fuel production. Most of these initiatives are tied to real, current projects, clients, and communities and offer real potential for concrete, sustained action.