RPA Fourth Regional Plan

Project: Fourth Regional Plan
Location: The Highlands, New York Region
Client: Regional Planning Association
Consultant Team: PORT, Range
Timeline: Spring-Summer 2017

PORT (in collaboration with Range) was selected by the Regional Plan Association of New York to assist in evaluating the design potentials of RPA’s recommendations in the forthcoming Fourth Regional Plan. PORT’s work focused on The Highlands, an area stretching from Pennsylvania to Connecticut at the base of the Eastern slope of the Appalachian Mountains.

This study area is not a singular condition. Rather, it is a collection of distinct, highly charismatic landscapes. At just over 30-miles from the core, these landscapes are the metropolitan region’s “near nature.” The essential ecosystem services the Highlands provide are currently able to support the region’s existing population. However, as the region’s population grows—both in the core, and at its periphery—there is the risk of the Highland’s carrying capacity reaching its limits and being permanently lost.

As a means of addressing this threat, the PORT team proposed an approach that intertwines conservation and development by monetizing ecosystem services, as well as tying development incentives to conservation investment. This approach establishes a system of exchange of resources that allows cities downstream to make investment in upstream conservation, while guiding and optimizing where and how development will occur. Such an approach allows for the integration of ecosystems and economies, design and management, providing a vision for the Highland’s future that fully embodies the goals of the Fourth Regional Plan.

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