The Conservation Leadership Network (CLN) will be strengthening livability capacity in at least four communities (see list below) starting in fall 2013 as part of the Federal Lands Livability Initiative. Through a partnership with the Federal Lands Livability Workgroup, comprised of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Park Service (NPS) and other land management agencies, CLN will assess trends in livability associated with federal public lands and their surrounding gateway communities. This initiative includes a mix of public lands, refuges, forests and parks from a geographic and demographic cross section of the country.

What Is A Gateway Community?

CO-Grand-Lake-downtown-rikdom-Flickr-300x200Grand Lake, Colorado, is one of the gateway communities participating in the initiative. Photo by rikdom/Flickr. America’s gateway communities are places adjacent to our public lands  that attract visitors and residents looking for unique recreational and cultural experiences. These communities face unique challenges—such as how to protect the assets that make them special and appealing—and often must work together with their public land partners to overcome these challenges. CLN has worked with gateway communities for more than a decade through its Balancing Nature and Commerce Program. This program has shown time and again that when local government officials, public land managers and community residents have the opportunity to talk about issues related to local land use, economic development and nature-based tourism, they can find a common way forward that fosters community development while also promoting public land and the outdoors.

What Is “Livability”?

SC-Calhoun-Falls-Richard-B-Russell-Lake-fishing-ACE-300x200The annual Kid’s Fishing Derby at Richard B. Russell Lake in Calhoun, South Carolina. Photo by Army Corps of Engineers/Flickr. The term “livability” refers to the quality and location of transportation facilities in relation to broader opportunities such as access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools and safe streets. 

The Six Principles of Livability defined by the U.S. departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities include: 

  1. Provide more transportation choices. 
  2. Promote equitable, affordable housing. 
  3. Enhance economic competitiveness. 
  4. Support existing communities. 
  5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment. 
  6. Value communities and neighborhoods.

Learn more about Livability >> 

The Initiative: Livability Assessments & Workshops

OR-Sweet-Home-Weddle-Bridge-Sandy-Horvath-Dori-Flickr-300x200Weddle Bridge in Sweet Home, Oregon. Photo by Sandy Horvath-Dori/Flickr This fall, members of the CLN team, together with local representatives and a local design team, will visit and conduct a livability assessment in each of the communities selected for the initiative.

Based on this on-the-ground assessment, the team will provide a livability status report to each community. By assessing these diverse gateway communities, the team hopes to draw general conclusions and lessons about how best to create and improve livability standards in these and other gateway communities.  

Once the livability assessment report is provided to the communities, CLN will set up workshops, unique to each community, that will allow residents and local officials to meet with representatives from their neighboring public lands.  “It’s our goal to help communities foster valuable partnerships,” says Kris Hoellen, vice president of sustainable programs for the Fund and CLN director. These workshops aim to help build an action plan based on the evaluation of the community’s key livability factors, which may include the strength of community character, as well as the accessibility to transportation, affordable housing, employment and business opportunities. 

Selected Communities

An interagency selection committee comprised of representatives from the
USFWS, NPS, FHWS, USFS and BLM selected public lands and their gateway
communities to participate in this initiative. These include: Map-Federal-Lands-Livability-Fin-645x430


Community: Grand Lake
Managing Agency: National Park Service
Federal Land: Rocky Mountain National Park
Other Public Lands:  Arapaho National Recreation Area (USFS)/ Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest (USFS)/ BLM lands/ Bureau of Reclamation
Read the full Grand Lake Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF) 


Community: Spaulding and James townships, Saginaw City
Managing Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Federal Land: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
Other Public Lands:  Green Point Environmental Learning Center (USFWS)/ Shiawassee River State Game Area (MIDNR)/ Saginaw Township public boat launch/ Saginaw Valley Rail Trail (Saginaw County)
Read the full Saginaw and Surrounding Townships Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)


Community: Sweet Home
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Federal Land: Willamette National Forest
Other Public Lands:  Foster Reservoir (USACE)/ Green Peter Reservoir (USACE)/ BLM lands/ Cascadia State Park/ Sunnyside County Park/ Riverbend Campground/ Sweet Home City Parks (7)
Read the full Sweet Home Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)

South Carolina

Community: Calhoun Falls
Managing Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Federal Land: Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake Project
Other Public Lands:  Parsons Mountain Recreation Area (USFS)/ Hartwell Project (USACE)/ J. Strom Thurmond Project (USACE)/ SCDNR, SCDPRT Lands
Read the full Calhoun Falls Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)