Contacts - Western Lands and Communities

Program Director
602-393-4310, ext. 309


Impact of Climate Change


August 18, 2014 Sonoran Institute hosted a presentation, Impact of Climate Change: Preparedness in the Latino Community.

Visit the webpage for video recording of the event, powerpoint presentations, and links to reports and information refernced.

New Publication - Arrested Developments


Arrested Developments: Combating Zombie Subdivisions and Other Excess Entitlements by Jim Holway with Don Elliott and Anna Trentadue. The link below takes you to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy publication library.

Download the policy focus report

Scenario Planning Tools Publication


Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, a Policy Focus Report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, is available for dowload here.

Read about efforts to implement the key recommendations to advance use of scenario planning tools.

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 Western Lands and Communities web-based informational resource to support the exchange of ideas surrounding the management of state trust lands.

Browse the new site at:

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Home Where We Work Westwide Program & Projects

Western Lands and Communities

The vast landscapes of the West intertwine with a uniquely western way of life to create this extraordinary region in which we live. Unprecedented challenges, including a growing population that changes economies and demographics and climate variability that stresses our predominantly arid ecosystems, must be addressed with innovative approaches.

Western Lands and Communities, a joint program of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute, is dedicated to helping Western communities face these challenges by informing land use and related natural resource policy. Western Lands and Communities (WLC) focuses on:

  • shaping growth;
  • sustaining cities;
  • protecting resources; and
  • empowering communities in the Intermountain West.

WLC utilizes demonstration projects to apply innovative approaches to solving the West’s challenges. These projects rely on collaboration with local planning agencies and stakeholders and range from utilizing exploratory scenario planning to update a small city’s General Plan to involvement with the Colorado River Delta restoration effort. Our partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy brings unparalleled expertise to all of our initiatives.

Learn more about our involvement with exploratory scenario planning, climate resilience, land water resources, and planning tool development by selecting the links below.


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Summer Waters
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Director - Western Lands & Communities



What's New


Current Projects

Urban Form and Smart Growth Research

This program area focuses on research related to smart growth planning and policies that will lead to more sustainable urban form patterns in the West. Rapid population growth and development activity, as well as the recent economic downturn, have impacted quality of life, fiscal health of cities and towns, regional economies, sustainability, and ecosystem health throughout the Intermountain West.
Western Lands and Communities addresses these issues with the following efforts:

  • Leading-edge exploratory scenario planning (XSP)
  • Arrested development patterns

 Visioning and Planning Tools

Planners and community leaders need affordable and accessible tools and resources that highlight best practices to envision and manage the future of their communities. The Visioning and Planning Tools Program area works to develop tools and applications that will promote smart growth and improve sustainability and urban form in western communities. Key projects in this program area include the Successful Communities Online Toolkit information exchange (SCOTie), which is an online database of case studies and resources for planners in the West. In addition, the Open Planning Tools Group was formed in 2010 to bring together academics, practitioners, and tool developers to advance tools and techniques within scenario planning and has grown to encompass a broader range of planning tools and applications, including civic engagement, fiscal impacts modeling, and others.

 State Trust Land Management

State trust land management, the principal focus area of Western Lands and Communities first four years, remains significant due to the extensive state trust land holdings and their importance for sustainable resource use and urban form patterns throughout the Intermountain West. In addition, many of the lessons learned from demonstration projects and research efforts conducted on state trust land are more generally applicable to other public and private lands throughout the intermountain west. Early WLC research resulted in a seminal Policy Focus Report, State Trust Lands in the West: Fiduciary Duty in a Changing Landscape. Research on ecosystem services markets and frameworks, economic analysis of the "contributory value" of preserved lands to adjacent lands, and other conservation tools will be the focus of a forthcoming Policy Focus Report in early 2015 on Conservation Strategies for State Trust Lands. WLC also works with the Western State Land Commissioners Association to advance innovative practices regarding the planning, disposition, and management of state trust lands throughout the West. New areas of research include total asset management for long term, sustainable use of trust lands in an intergenerational context.

 Western Land, Water, Energy and Climate Policy Linkages

Land use and policy, water resources, and energy production are highly interrelated and critical to a sustainable economy for the Intermountain West. The West is highly susceptible to the impacts of global climate change, which must be addressed through the interaction between land policy and natural resources. Water resources and electric utility infrastructure are two key issues that necessitate megaregional level coordination and likely provide the best way to introduce climate change challenges into the dialogue in western states. Our 2010 Policy Focus Report, Planning for Climate Change in the West, highlighted the role of local governments in addressing climate change challenges and implementing effective policies. Our current work is focused on developing tools that help local communities build resilience and engaging a broader civic dialogue on climate related natural resource issues.

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