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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Wang, Grace A.

Second Advisor

Abel, Troy D.

Third Advisor

Medler, Michael J.


Preserving open space is an important component of growth management policy because protected lands can help shape the patterns of growth. Washington State provides a unique opportunity to analyze the role of local land preservation efforts within a mandated growth management framework to preserve open space and conserve natural resources. The purpose of this study is to evaluate how and why land preservation happens, and the conditions under which some communities preserve more open space than others. This thesis builds on existing research by expanding analysis to smaller communities in the Pacific Northwest. An environmental policy capacity model is used to identify community characteristics potentially affecting conservation efforts as they relate to variations in local land preservation. The degree of association between policy indicators (population density, median household income, education attainment, the number of environmental nonprofit organizations and local land trusts) and policy outcomes (total acreage, percentage of open space and open space per 1,000 residents) is analyzed at the county-level through statistical analysis and a descriptive case study of two rapidly growing counties: Clark and Whatcom. The results suggest environmental nonprofit organizations and local land trusts are significantly associated with protected open space; however, median household income was unexpectedly shown to be negatively correlated. Hence, social capital and civic environmentalism emerge as essential components of successful local land preservation efforts. Many communities continue to face development pressures, and given the competing needs and uses for available land, this research will contribute to ways communities can respond to the land preservation challenge.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Open spaces--Environmental aspects--Washington (State); Land use--Environmental aspects--Washington (State); Land use--Washington (State)--Planning; Regional planning--Washington (State)

Geographic Coverage

Washington (State)




masters theses




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