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What is a Living Landscape?

The term “Living Landscape” does not reflect any existing designation; rather, it reflects a broader set of interests, ideas, and partners, including land conservancies, heritage areas, watershed organizations, long distance trails advocates, regional tourism initiatives and the many other groups that are coming together around regional and place based initiatives. Living landscapes are large landscapes that are inhabited, claimed, complex, changing, and in short alive. They almost all cross jurisdictional boundaries, have multiple partners, and multiple objectives.

The goals of these efforts can include the conservation of important habitat and scenic values, the preservation of historic landmarks and main streets, or the revitalization of local and regional economies, but they share a common commitment to doing so by engaging other partners including the people who live in the place. They seek to sustain and build on the assets of a region whether natural resources, historic places, locally produced goods, recreational opportunities or cultural traditions.

The term living landscape is also used to differentiate this approach from traditional protected areas which manage a defined geographical space that is set aside for protection and/or visitor enjoyment of its cultural and natural values. The term also differentiates these landscapes from designed landscapes which are defined as consciously designed or laid out by a landscape architect, master gardener, architect or horticulturist according to design principles or established styles and traditions.

While a precise definition for the landscape scale approach is still out of reach, there are models across the United States and around the world that showcase this work. Although the scope of what is a living landscape is still a work in progress, innovative projects in America and  the world provide on the ground lessons for today and for the future.

Click here for an ever growing list of models large landscape initiatives.

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