Indicator: Urban Open Space

Aug 10, 2020
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This cultural resource indicator is an index specific to urban areas that identifies both current and potential future open space based on the distance of undeveloped areas to existing protected lands. It is intended to capture equitable access to open space for urban residents.

Reason for Selection

Protected natural areas in urban environments provide urban residents a nearby place to connect with nature, and offer refugia for some species. This indicator is easily modeled and monitored, and is widely understood by diverse partners.

Input Data

2016 National Land Cover Database(NLCD)

The Nature Conservancy’s 2018 External Secured Lands Database

2010 Census Urban Area National

Mapping Steps

1) Protected areas were identified using TNC’s Secured Lands Database. All areas in the database were treated in the same way, regardless of ownership or GAP level protection status.

2) Distance from secured areas was calculated using the Euclidean Distance function in ArcGIS.

3) Areas that were not classified as any of the four developed classes from the 2016 NLCD were given values based on distance from protected areas. Non-urban areas that are not currently close to existing protected lands are given a higher value. The intention is to prioritize areas for conservation action that are not already near existing protected lands.

4) The final output was clipped down to include only areas inside or within a 3 mile buffer around the 2010 Census urban areas.

The final indicator values below were all based on impacts of open space on property values in the peer-reviewed literature:

– 1 mile: Acharya and Bennett (2001), Breffle et al. (1998), Geoghegan (2002), Geoghegan et al. (2003)

– 0.5 mile: Breffle et al. (1998)

– 400 m: Acharya and Bennett (2001), Irwin and Bockstael (2001), Ready and Abdalla (2005), Walsh (2004)

Final indicator values

Indicator values were assigned as follows:

5 = Protected land (high)

4 = Undeveloped area > 1600 m from protected land

3 = Undeveloped area 800-1600 m from protected land

2 = Undeveloped area 400-800 m from protected land

1 = Undeveloped area < 400 m from protected land

0 = Existing development (low)

Known Issues

– There are inconsistencies in the representation of urban secured areas across states. This leads to many urban secured areas, particularly in Georgia and South Carolina, not being incorporated into this indicator.

– Does not incorporate size of secured area, amenities, public safety, or other factors beyond distance that might limit access.

– Using a hard line at the 3 mile buffer around the census urban area does not account for the more continuous decline in the value of open space as you move away from the urban core..

Disclaimer: Comparing with Older Indicator Versions

There are numerous problems with using South Atlantic indicators for change analysis. Please consult Blueprint staff if you would like to do this (email

Literature Cited

Acharya, Gayatri, and Lynne Lewis Bennett. 2001. Valuing open space and land-use patterns in urban watersheds. Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 22:221-237.

Breffle, William S., Edward R. Morey and Tymon S. Lodder. 1998. Using contingent valuation to estimate a neighborhood’s willingness to pay to preserve undeveloped land. Urban Studies 35(4):715-727.

Geoghegan, Jacqueline. 2002. The value of open spaces in residential land use. Land Use Policy 19(1):91-98.

Geoghegan, Jacqueline, Lori Lynch, and Shawn Bucholtz. 2003. Capitalization of open spaces into housing values and the residential property tax revenue impacts of agricultural easement programs. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 32(1):33–45.

Homer, Collin G., Dewitz, Jon A., Jin, Suming, Xian, George, Costello, C., Danielson, Patrick, Gass, L., Funk, M., Wickham, J., Stehman, S., Auch, Roger F., Riitters, K. H., Conterminous United States land cover change patterns 2001–2016 from the 2016 National Land Cover Database: ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, v. 162, p. 184–199, at []

Irwin, Elena G. and Nancy E. Bockstael. 2001. The problem of identifying land use spillovers: Measuring the effects of open space on residential property values. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 83(3):698-704.

Qualifying Urban Areas for the 2010 Census, 77 Fed. Reg. 59 (March 27, 2012). Federal Register: The Daily Journal of the United States. Web. [].

Ready, Richard C. and Charles W. Abdalla. 2005. The amenity and disamenity impacts of agriculture: Estimates from a hedonic pricing model. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 87(2):314-326.

The Nature Conservancy. 2018. Secured Lands dataset. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Conservation Science. Boston, MA. [].

Walsh, Randall P. 2004. Endogenous open space amenities in a locational equilibrium. University of Colorado Center for Economic Analysis, Discussion Papers in Economics Working paper No. 04-03. February 2004.Freshwater

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2020-08-15 04:00:00 (lastRevision Date), 2020-08-15 04:00:00 (Release Date), 2019-08-15 04:00:00 (Start Date), 2021-08-15 04:00:00 (End Date)
Rua Mordecai(Point of Contact), Amy Keister(Point of Contact), Hilary Morris(Point of Contact), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(Point of Contact), Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS)(Point of Contact), 2020-08-15(lastRevision), 2020-08-15(Release), Indicator: Urban Open Space,,
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South Atlantic Blueprint

The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is a living spatial plan to conserve natural and cultural resources for current and future generations in the face of future change. It spans parts of six states, from Virginia to Florida, including U.S. waters to 200 miles offshore. The Blueprint...