The Rocky Mountain West is evolving. No longer defined by the mining, logging and ranching operations that for over a century shaped its landscape, economy and culture (the oil, gas and minerals rush of recent years notwithstanding), the West is fast becoming post-industrial, with a robust services- and amenities-based economy and an increasingly diverse and urban population. Meanwhile, an extraordinary confluence of forces – economic globalization, the recent real estate bust and Great Recession, the Internet, climate change and the rising cost of fossil fuels – is accelerating this evolution, changing the way cities and towns across the West and the U.S. plan, grow and define their success. Old rules and patterns of development – both physical and economic – are eroding; new ones are beginning to emerge.
The need and opportunities for a new generation of land use and development professionals with expertise and skills in sustainability have never been greater or, for that matter, more important. To be successful and ensure a resilient, prosperous region in the twenty-first century, a new generation of land use and development professionals – sustainable development professionals – will need to be forged. They will need to understand the many forces driving the West’s land use and development patterns, forces that cut across geography, disciplines, fields and sectors – from global warming to globalization, housing to transportation, energy to economic development, public policy to politics. They will have to be prepared to work in and among many different contexts – urban and rural, commercial and residential, agricultural and recreational, private and public – and social groups – affluent and low-income, from an increasingly rich mix of ethnic and racial backgrounds. And most importantly, they will need to possess a new mind- and skill-set capable of identifying and integrating economic, social and environmental goals – sustainability goals – and of designing new business models, policies and strategies that join profitability, community and ecology in a bold development vision tailored to the needs of a rapidly changing region in a radically changing world.