The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Farm near Trout Lake, Washington.
Image by Katy Langstaff.

Productive Rural Areas

In much of this bioregion, rural areas are not sharing the prosperity of urban centers. Young people are moving away, and there is a decline in services like schools and healthcare.

Productive Rural Areas offer a wide range of economic opportunities while preserving the health of local ecosystems. They preserve their Sense of Place and even as they diversify their Local Economies. They maintain a sufficient range of services, including healthcare and education, to provide for the Fundamental Needs of local people. Productive Rural Areas create viable opportunities for continuity from generation to generation, reducing the average age of farmers, ranchers, loggers, and fishermen.

The health of rural areas is related to that of nearby towns and cities. Rural areas need strong and stable market linkages for their produce, timber, and fish. Community-Supported Agriculture and Community-Based Forestry provide higher, more reliable prices with long-term subscriptions and production arrangements.

People need some assurance that rising and uncertain land prices will not drive them off their land, or make it impossible to pass it on to their children. Ecological Land-Use tools of zoning, land trusts, conservation easements, and the purchase or transfer of development rights have all been effective in protecting the character, beauty, and economic viability of rural areas.

Rural areas can contribute to the Ecological Infrastructure of nearby towns and cities, as well as to regional systems of Connected Wildlands, by preserving riparian corridors, wetlands, and lands of special ecological and cultural significance. Rural areas may also serve as both destinations for Ecotourism and gateways to nearby wild areas. Such wild areas may offer important , supplementing the local diet and providing a Sense of Place. Rural areas may also be able to market Ecosystem Services. Along the Columbia River, farmers are now leasing land for wind farms, providing a significant income while keeping the land in agriculture.

Maintain the character and productivity of rural areas by protecting key areas from development and providing continuity of land ownership. Establish beneficial market linkages with nearby towns and cities. Keep ownership of land and resources broad-based and local.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Rural and Community Studies
Rural California suffers from a lack of jobs, as well as a decline in the agrarian economy. The region is currently characterized by rapid population growth and slow economic growth, as well as slower recovery from recent recessions. Public policy has failed to address the problems of rural California and the rural West. Our research on rural economic development issues seeks to promote appropriate, sustainable economic growth.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas

Center for Rural Affairs


Arendt, Randall G. Conservation Design for Subdivisions: A Practical Guide to Creating Open Space Networks. Island Press. Washington, DC. 1996.

Dresser, Peter van. Landscape for Humans: The Lightning Tree. Lyon Jene Publisher. Santa Fe, NM. 1976.

Hart, John. Farming on the Edge: Saving Family Farms in Marin County. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. 1991.

Kemmis, Daniel. Community and the Politics of Place. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman, OK. 1945.

Vitek, William and Wes, eds. Jackson. Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place. Yale University Press. New Haven, CT. 1996.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling