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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)
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Future of Urban Open Space

Project Title

Future of Urban Open Space


Extent of urbanized area for three metropolitan areas
US Census Bureau
Extent of urbanized area for three metropolitan areas and corresponding 2000 population

Availability and management of open space are increasingly challenged by pressures from growing populations and by threats such as wildland fire, drought, water shortages, and climate change. Managers of open space in or near cities are hindered in their ability to sustain public lands by inadequate knowledge of how urban pressures and agency policies and preferences shape decisions and actions.

To address this, scientists from the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) and from three southwestern universities launched an NSF funded “ULTRA-EX” (Urban Long-Term Research Exploratory Award) project to evaluate land use decision-making practices across a gradient of city size from large (Phoenix, AZ), mid-size (Albuquerque, NM) to small (Las Cruces, NM). This project includes RMRS-led surveys of federal land managers to understand how agency mission, population size and personal preference influence agency decisions regarding open space management.

Urban sustainability is increasingly important for guiding policy. This research increases our understanding of how decision makers respond to and make land and water use decisions in the arid Southwest. The proposed activities will contribute important empirical data and a deeper understanding of the drivers, outcomes, and processes of land and water use, cover, and change that are fundamental for the long-term goal of managing and sustaining open space.

By examining multiple agencies across three cities along a population, economic, and physical extent gradient, this research adds knowledge about agency practices and geographic scaling in open space decision processes. The RMRS research team will assess which ecosystem services and open space preferences are most important to federal land management decisions as part of the larger project. The results of these surveys will reach decision makers at the city, county, state, and federal levels, concerned citizen groups, real estate developers, and tribal groups that influence land and water management in the Southwest.

GSD Principal Investigators

Finch, Deborah    Program Manager and Supervisory Biologist    505-724-3671
Briefing Document
A one page project briefing document is available.
Project Ecoregions