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Limited land base and competing land uses force societal tradeoffs when siting energy development

February 28, 2022

As human populations grow, decisions regarding use of the world's finite land base become increasingly complex. We adopted a land use–conflict scenario involving renewable energy to illustrate one potential cause of these conflicts and resulting tradeoff decisions. Renewable energy industries wishing to expand operations in the United States are limited by multijurisdictional regulations in finding developable land. Interest groups entreat industries to avoid land for various reasons, including avoidance of prime wildlife habitat in accordance with an “avoidance-first” mitigation strategy. By applying a uniform set of rules for renewable energy facilities to the Prairie Pothole Region and portions of the Northern Great Plains, we evaluated the effects of regulations and avoidance of prime wildlife habitat on the amount of land available for development. In our scenario, existing regulations excluded 39% of the project area from potential development, with human infrastructure accounting for 30% (10–66% among states), whereas federally protected species accounted for < 1% at project area and state levels. Unregulated lands accounted for 61% of the project area, with conservation areas predicted as high-quality sites for breeding grassland birds and waterfowl and for migrating whooping cranes Grus americana accounting for 19% within the project area (6–27% among states). This model demonstrated a limited land base available for new development when accounting for regulations and concerns of a subset of societal interest groups. Additional interest groups likely will have different and competing concerns, further emphasizing the complexity of future land-use decisions as the available land base for development diminishes.

Publication Year 2022
Title Limited land base and competing land uses force societal tradeoffs when siting energy development
DOI 10.3996/JFWM-21-036
Authors Jill A. Shaffer, Neal D. Niemuth, Charles R. Loesch, Clayton E. Derby, Aaron T. Pearse, Kevin W. Barnes, Terry L. Shaffer, Adam J. Ryba
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Index ID 70235703
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center