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UrbanFootprint and TNC Map Land Policy Environmental Impact
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 12/06/2018

UrbanFootprint, a Berkeley-based urban planning software company, nnounced the integration of The Nature Conservancy's new Conservation Module into the UrbanFootprint software platform. The Conservation Module is an analytics suite focused on natural and working lands. Fully integrated into UrbanFootprint, it helps planners and communities measure the environmental impacts and benefits of current and future land use policies for four key themes: water resources, habitat, agriculture, and carbon sequestration and storage.

The Conservation Module marks a turning point in urban planning technology. Both public and private sector planners traditionally spend weeks and months wrestling with unwieldy, siloed datasets to run key environmental studies. Now with the collaboration of UrbanFootprint and The Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Module allows planners and community stakeholders to evaluate plan outcomes in a matter of minutes.

"By including environment analytics early in the planning process, shrinking the costs and timeline of key environmental analyses, UrbanFootprint allows planners and policymakers to focus their efforts on building more sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities - rather than struggling to clean and curate disparate datasets," said Joe DiStefano, president and co-founder of UrbanFootprint. "We expect the ability to quickly assess existing conditions and project future outcomes with advanced scenario planning will encourage much needed, data-driven policy conversations around conservation and urban planning."

In a recent pilot program with Sonoma County (California) Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the Regional Climate Protection Agency (RCPA), the Conservation Module helped guide the assessment of a range of potential housing scenarios and their impacts on natural and working lands. The scenarios ranged from lower-density suburban growth patterns to higher-density housing options with an emphasis on infill development. By standardizing land cover types, reference data, and calculated model inputs across California, the Conservation Module quickly quantified the results and clearly illustrated the costs and benefits of each development pattern.

"In the early days, when it came to land use planning and development, we really didn't know what nature was around us, and the benefits it provides to communities -- until it was gone. We didn't have the data, and later when we did, it was cumbersome to access and hard to get a full picture," said Elizabeth O'Donoghue, director of infrastructure and land use at The Nature Conservancy. "But, science and technology has changed the game. When we developed the Conservation Module, it was our hope to see it implemented in planning software like UrbanFootprint. The potential for planners across California to have this information on lands, waters and wildlife at their fingertips is key to the future of healthy community planning now and into the future."

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