A Regulatory Primer of United States Multisectoral Land Use and Environmental Policy

  • Beth Ann Fiedler


A broad sweep of multitiered government policy in the United States (e.g., federal, state, and city) provides a scale view of land use and environmental regulation. Establishing the legal foundation of regulatory guidelines helps to define concepts, highlight important areas of law to promote understanding, create general discourse, address existing conditions, and prioritize avoidance of ecosystem destruction to facilitate population health. The analysis introduces the interdependent role of natural resources, land use, and economic development embedded in three levels of environmental law through overviews of U.S. national policy, the State of California, and the City of Chicago, Illinois. The intent of aligning subordinate law with higher levels of law is an important objective but analysis reveals the challenges in overlapping ideologies in relation to proximity of development impact and positional perspective. Therefore, defining the role of each level of policy demonstrates the complexity of establishing policy by identifying local obstacles, environmental conditions, and their health consequences in diverse populations even while sharing the same national boundaries.


Multisectoral service delivery Economic instruments Regulatory instruments Urban planning 



The author would like to thank the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School and Humboldt State University Library Environmental Research Guide for their commitment to open access of legal topics and associated law in their respective online directories. Analysis and interpretation of these items is the sole responsibility of the author but is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Special thanks to Nate van Ness for helpful commentary on the final first draft.



The limit of an environment measured in land and water resources to provide for daily needs such as water, construction material for housing, transportation, and waste removal; often measured in geographic regions, such as nations, to determine how life style consumption choices of available natural resources result in an ecological surplus (biocapacity creditors) or deficit (biocapacity debtors) (Global Footprint Network 2017)


Regulatory instrument of a municipal or city government to create local law; typically called a bylaw or ordinance because the local government is empowered by the state to regulate specific items

Environmental Impact Assessment

Analysis that determines economic, environmental, and political feasibility of projects prior to development to minimize environmental impact

Federal land

Refers to any land owned (fee simple title) and managed by the federal government, regardless of its mode of acquisition or managing agency; it excludes lands administered by a federal agency under easements, leases, contracts, or other arrangements (Vincent et al. 2017, p.1)


Economic instrument that can include money, land, or similar form of assistance


Economic instrument; reward for adhering to minimal levels of pollutants or minimizing consumption

Land degradation

When land is unable to produce natural resources (e.g., crops, wilderness, grazing areas) due to overuse, contamination, or other causes elicited from human activity and production

Land use

Linked to several major areas of public administration such as natural resource management, waste disposal, transportation, urbanization, agriculture, recreation, and forest

Land use planning

Task of local governments to utilize national or regional spatial planning guidance to formulate specific land use


Regulatory instrument; the capacity to formulate law


Regulatory instrument; normally a municipal-level law


Regulatory instrument; to formally present a document giving permission to utilize a specific resource (e.g., construction, land use)

Public land

Refers to lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management as defined in 43 U.S.C. §1702(e) (Vincent et al. 2017, p.1; Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute n.d.-a)


Economic instrument; a sum of money to an organization to perform a specific activity


Economic instrument; an obligation to pay a certain percentage of earned income to the government

Zoning ordinances

Official designation of how property can be utilized in a given geographic location; zoned for commercial use, residential use, etc.


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  12. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Agricultural Statistics Services. CropScape: cropland data layer. [Data source: Center for Spatial Information Science and Systems]. 2016. Accessed 30 Sep 2017.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth Ann Fiedler
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent Research AnalystJacksonvilleUSA

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