Natural Resource Protection Tools

One of the key objectives of DVRPC's Long Range Plan is to protect the environment through open space preservation. More specifically, the plan identifies an extensive network of rural and natural lands, where most, if not all, forms of extensive commercial and residential development should be precluded. As of 2021, 630,000 acres of forestland, meadows, recreational land, farmland, and other types of open space have been permanently protected from development, a major step toward achieving the plan's goals.

Moving forward, open space preservation will continue to play a significant role in shaping the region's land use. However, permanently protecting all the lands targeted for protection in the plan — an area over twice as large as the existing 630,000 acres of protected open space — through acquisitions and conservation easements would cost the region many billions of dollars. Accordingly, a variety of municipal land use ordinances and planning tools will be needed to help the region achieve its open space and natural resource protection goals.

Survey of Local Tools

In 2002, DVRPC completed its first comprehensive survey of local resource protection tools. This inventory was updated in 2006, and again in 2012, and most recently in early 2021. The survey focuses on the following open space and natural resource protection tools:

  1. Agricultural Zoning;
  2. Cluster Development Ordinances;
  3. Environmental Impact Statements (EIS);
  4. Environmental Resource Inventories (ERI);
  5. Floodplain Ordinances;
  6. Locally Funded Open Space Programs;
  7. Open Space Plans;
  8. Steep Slope Ordinances;
  9. Stream Corridor Protection Ordinances;
  10. Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Ordinances;
  11. Tree Protection Ordinances; and
  12. Wetlands Management Ordinances


The results of the survey are presented on a set of maps. In most cases, each map indicates whether or not a particular municipality has the ordinance and/or utilizes the land use tool in question. The maps do not record the details of individual ordinances. For agricultural zoning, the map only displays those municipalities that possess a minimum lot size of ten acres and up.


In addition to the survey results and maps, DVRPC has posted outstanding sample ordinances of the zoning techniques featured in the survey and found in our region. These sample ordinances can be used as detailed models by municipalities that choose to adopt new ordinances or update current ordinances to protect their open space and natural resources. Planning and environmental commissions can also use the survey results and sample ordinances to "audit" their own municipality, proposing changes and improvements as necessary.

By highlighting the use of municipal natural resource and open space preservation tools, DVRPC hopes to enable more municipalities in our region to become active partners in achieving the vision presented by The Long-Range Plan for open space, natural areas and greenways.


Due to the subjectivity of interpretation of some of the codes, and the possibility that some published ordinances might not reflect all recent amendments, the accuracy of the data displayed cannot be guaranteed. The survey is periodically updated by DVRPC as new information becomes available. If you detect misrepresentations or inaccuracies in the data displayed, please contact us below. Your assistance is appreciated.

Air Quality Partnership
Annual Report
Connections 2050
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Economic Development District