December 16, 1996
Daniel Press receives $300,000 EPA grant for open-space research
Daniel Press, an assistant professor of environmental studies,
has received a grant for $304,782 from the federal Environmental
Protection Agency to study the role local governments play in
the preservation of open space in California.
The results of the five-year study, "Community and Conservation
in California," will be particularly important as the federal
and state governments abandon their roles as preservers of undeveloped
land. "The federal government is spending very little money
on conservation, and the state of California doesn't even have
an acquisitions department for parkland anymore," says Press.
"If land is going to be conserved at all, there's going to
be a big role for local governments."
Historically, however, local land-preservation efforts vary widely.
Some counties raise local taxes to buy land, or they create special
districts that levy fees on residents to establish parks--yet
others do nothing. The variation can't be explained by obvious
factors, such as household income, county revenues, political
affiliation, or urban density, says Press, noting that even during
the height of the Depression in 1934, residents east of San Francisco
voted overwhelmingly to tax themselves to establish the East Bay
Regional Park District.
Press will rely heavily on interviews with planners, developers,
open-space advocates, landowners, and residents to explore less
tangible factors, such as how citizens feel about the place they
live and what social and civic networks exist.
The five-year EPA grant guarantees that Press will be able to
finish his research, which he began about 18 months ago, and it
gives him the opportunity to explore an intriguing early finding:
When Press charts how each county voted on the 42 statewide ballot
initiatives regarding the environment that appeared between 1924
and 1994, what emerges are remarkably persistent patterns of support
or rejection. It's almost like counties have distinct personalities,
with some consistently approving environmental protection measures,
and others consistently rejecting them.
"Some counties have taken very active roles in preserving
open space, and part of what I'm doing is mapping that activity
over time," says Press, who will do in-depth work in several
counties as part of his research. "Ultimately, this project
will tell the story of land-conservation efforts in California
in the 20th century."
Press joined the UCSC faculty in 1992; he specializes in environmental
policy and planning issues.
The EPA is one of the nation's largest regulatory agencies, with
responsibility for several major environmental statutes, including
the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Superfund program
that cleans up abandoned hazardous-waste sites. This grant was
made as part of the EPA's Early Career Research Award program,
which "embodies the high priority placed by EPA on maintaining
the leadership position of the United States in environmental
science by producing outstanding researchers and nurturing their
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