Increasing the capacity of communities on the rural-urban fringe to accommodate sustainable growth is a key concern among resource management agencies. Decisions about the future of these landscapes involve difficult tradeoffs that underscore the importance of incorporating diverse stakeholder values and preferences into planning efforts. We assessed residents’ preferences for exurban growth alternatives in two Midwestern U.S. counties – Jasper County, IA and Will County, IL – that have strong agrarian roots and lie at the fringe of rapidly-expanding metropolitan areas. Using a choice model, we identified how six landscape characteristics influenced respondents’ stated choices for growth scenarios. Informed by previous research, focus groups, and pilot testing, our final model evaluated preferences for residential growth, protected grasslands, recreation, agriculture, bison reintroduction, and unemployment. Results from a county-wide survey mailed to 3000 residents (final N = 889) indicated that five of the six landscape-scale attributes significantly influenced residents’ choices. Increased residential growth, more protected grasslands and agricultural lands, and greater access to recreation positively predicted choices for hypothetical growth scenarios while residents preferred future scenarios with low levels of unemployment. Further, the strength of preferences for these land use and economic conditions differed between Jasper and Will County residents. The study findings aid decision makers who face growth and urbanization pressures and provide insight on how to integrate preferences of current residents into planning decisions at a regional scale.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law