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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consequences of Sprawl: Threats to California's Natural Environment and Human Health


California’s magnificent natural beauty, unique quality of life, and vast economic opportunities have drawn migrants from within the US and abroad for decades. This trend shows no sign of letting up, and with an anticipated new baby boom, growth of the state’s population will accelerate in the coming years.

This will create tremendous new pressures on California’s natural and human environments. Mitigating these problems will be difficult. The greatest promise for protecting what we treasure lies in taking early action to guide this growth in environmentally and economically sound directions. The rapid pace and unpredictable distribution of population growth complicates this task and underlines the need for state leadership and strategic planning in all parts of the state.

In order to create such a policy framework, it is necessary to understand why and where sprawl is occurring, and what is at risk. This paper seeks to identify key threats and point the way toward policy options for addressing them.

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