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ELI's Sustainable Use of Land Program

The Environmental Law Institute's Sustainable Use of Land Program recognizes that wasteful and unsustainable land uses often result from perverse incentives in our existing laws and policies. ELI's approach to sustainable land is "smarter laws, better choices." ELI focuses on the laws that influence development activities, recognizing that changes in the areas of tax, finance, infrastructure investment, subsidy, housing, land-use planning and regulation, governmental land management and acquisition, and liability can profoundly affect land-use choices and environmental protection. We develop and apply new legal approaches to assure that the additional 95 million people representing the projected increase in U.S. population by 2040 will have choices about places to live, work, and enjoy while sustaining the nation's ecosystems, farmlands, forests, and open spaces, and reviving our cities and suburbs.

Featured Areas of Expertise and Resources:

  • Managing Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale: ELI and the Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy & Management have produced a study that examines the gas boom in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, and explores best practices to forestall or mitigate a subsequent economic downturn or “bust.” ELI and the W&J Center have also produced a practical guidebook to inform local officials and community organizations of some of their options.
  • Natural Hazard Mitigation Planning: ELI, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment, is working to facilitate greater collaboration between hazard mitigation planners and wetland and wildlife conservation managers to strengthen management and protection of vital wetland and floodplain habitats.
  • Ending Sprawl-Law: This long-term project reviews how policy tools other than comprehensive planning and zoning can be used to curb sprawl, revive older suburbs and cities, provide choices in affordable housing, and conserve farms, forests, and open space. In 2007, ELI published Ten Things Wrong With Sprawl, an issues paper describing ten negative effects of exurban sprawl.
  • National Environmental Policy Act: NEPA provides a basis for decision-making that considers alternatives, involves the public, and allows application of new and updated information. ELI's work on NEPA shows how this statute can help support better decisions in the areas of resource use, land management, climate change, and development.
  • Brownfields Program: ELI supports brownfield cleanups and redevelopment and helps ensure that such efforts protect public health and respond to community preferences. ELI's on-line resources seek to increase communication among groups and individuals working on brownfields issues. The Institute's Long-Term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites program examines institutional measures that attempt to ensure the protection of public health over the long term when hazardous substances are left in place.