Open Space Trumped?

I worked long enough in Washington DC to know that the political system has incredible ability to stonewall, hinder, and delay. Donald Trump will not be able to do much of what he promised during his campaign. Republicans whom he insulted during his campaign will be less than wholehearted supporters of Trump’s agenda, and of course Democrats will be persistent opponents.

What are the elements of Trump’s agenda that are most toxic to open space?

First is a general hostility to environmental protection. When a real estate developer is delayed or required to mitigate environmental damage, there will certainly be a sympathetic ear in the White House—and efforts to roll back environmental laws and rules that impede development, particularly to the extent that this can be accomplished by executive order. As our web site demonstrates, development is what destroys open space, so a pro-development stance in DC is automatically a stance in opposition to open space.

Second is an aggressive promotion of economic growth. Economic growth amplifies all the factors that give value to roads (see our web page The Value of Roads), and this inevitably tilts the financial incentive system more in favor of roads and less in favor of preservation of open space (see our web page The Tilted Incentive System).

These forces aligned against open space may not last for long, but the best bulwark against loss of space is compensation: space protection as a price for space loss. The system, which presently gives all advantages to development, needs to be fixed.

About Ray Watts

Raymond D Watts, PhD, is a geophysicist and geographer who retired in 2010 after a 40 year research career. He has worked on lunar exploration, glaciology, nuclear waste management, climate change, distribution of roads of the U.S., and ecological effects of roads. Most of his research career was at the U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado. While studying road distribution, he developed ways to measure the amount of space between roads and became concerned about the inexorable loss of this American resource. Ray lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. Email:

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