By building densely and reusing already-developed land, smart growth preserves open spaces that are home to wildlife. Habitat loss is the main threat to 80% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States, but building within an existing community, rather than outside of town on a wild greenfield, helps preserve wildlife habitat, protect air and water quality and foster the strong economic growth that’s only possible in dense development.
A study of development trends in Orlando, Florida, projected that smart growth principles would reduce wetland and floodplain losses in the area by 20%. Other studies have found that smart growth development helps bird species flourish, with more birds and a greater diversity of species in smart growth areas than areas with dispersed development.
Protecting green space strengthens local economies.
Protecting open space, parks and farmland means strengthening existing communities, attracting businesses, and avoiding the costs associated with supporting dispersed infrastructure. Communities with smart growth attributes like well-maintained neighborhood parks and extensive park systems consistently attract and retain businesses. Portland, Oregon, is a great example of this: the city adopted extensive growth management practices in the 1970s and invested in an extensive park system. As a result, Portland has attracted numerous new companies including Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Hyundai, which picked the city because its quality of life would be able to attract an educated workforce. Bill Calder, a spokesman for Intel which employs 9,000 people in Oregon, explained that, “Companies that can locate anywhere they want to will go to places that attract good people.”