- Rural land offers many economic uses.delaware field image by mrslevite from Fotolia.com
Land-use issues can be a heated and controversial topic involving many interests and stakeholders. Land use is usually determined by state and local governments via zoning laws informed by a community's general plan. The struggle between developing and urbanizing property and preserving and maintaining an area's natural heritage and character can be fierce, but preserving rural land while taking advantage of its many economic uses can promote its continued existence.
Agricultural and Forestry
- Depending on its topography and climate, rural land may be used for agriculture or forestry. Both these uses require altering the native composition of the land, including possibly introducing foreign species of flora and fauna to the ecosystem. Agriculture or farming can yield crops that may bring a seasonal economic return from the land, while forestry would require a longer term investment to account for natural tree cycles.
- Using rural land to raise grazing livestock, such as cattle or sheep, requires large areas. Ranching often consists of privately held land in conjunction with federally held land under grazing leases. A ranch can be a commercial operation for the production of meat and wool, or a tourist enterprise catering to horseback rides and guest cattle drives, or a combination of both.
- Rural lands near waterways may engage in aquaculture, the aquatic equivalent of ranching for fish, molluscs and crustaceans. Aquaculture involves raising freshwater or saltwater oysters, shrimp, fish, and even seaweed in a controlled environment utilizing nets to separate the organisms from the larger body of water.
Tourism and Recreation
- Hiking, camping, horse riding, canoeing, and river rafting are just some of the activities that bring locals and tourists to rural areas. Using rural land for these activities can incorporate some commercial land use for equipment-rental sites, tour-guide operations, or bed-and-breakfast lodging, but, for the most part, not permanent residential housing. Many of these recreational uses can be fostered without jeopardizing natural resources or sacrificing an area's rural character.
Historical, Cultural, or Educational
- Distinctive landscape features or archaeological sites of historical significance can also bring students and tourists to rural areas. These sites may be officially slated for preservation by governments or nonprofit organizations, but preservation costs can be offset by proceeds from educational tours of the area.
Preservation and non-market benefits
- Preserving rural land for its own sake can bring many benefits. Maintaining the biodiversity and wildlife habitat of an area can have long-range benefits, including watershed protection, soil conservation and groundwater recharge. However, the lasting advantages of maintaining scenic vistas, traditional country life and small town heritage can be priceless.