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The influence of personal belief, agency mission and city size on open space decision making processes in three southwestern cities

Friggens , Megan, Raish , Carol, Finch, Deborah, McSweeney, Alice
Urban ecosystems 2015 v.18 no.2 pp. 577-598
attitudes and opinions, cities, decision making, e-mail, ecosystem services, ecosystems, human resources, land management, landscapes, managers, open space, planning, population growth, population size, professionals, public lands, quality of life, questionnaires, researchers, Arizona, New Mexico
The southwest has experienced dramatic population increases over the last 30 years, a trend that is expected to continue. Open space conservation is important both from the standpoint of preserving ecosystem services as well as maintaining quality of life for urban populations. Federal agencies manage a large proportion of the public land in the Southwestern U.S. We surveyed federal land management agencies with jurisdiction in three cities representing a gradient in size and population: Phoenix, Arizona, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico. A questionnaire was sent via email to 918 federal land and resource managers, professionals, and researchers. We also collected comments from respondents to identify specific perceptions concerning the use and importance of open space. Our primary questions sought to elicit individual preferences regarding open space as well as respondent perceptions of the relation between agency mission and open space management. Certain questions asked respondents to provide their own views on these topics, while other questions asked them to provide their opinions concerning agency views. We looked for differences among respondents from different cities and from different government departments, and compared lower- versus higher-grade employees. Individuals from Phoenix tended to value open space more than those from Albuquerque and Las Cruces, which we attribute in part to differences in resource availability among the cities studied. Higher-grade employees tended to agree more that federal agencies were addressing potential future issues, and may reflect different levels of awareness of agency activities among respondents. Our study highlights the importance of considering agency mission and landscape context in multijurisdictional open space planning.