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Acknowledging Trade-offs and Understanding Complexity: Exurbanization Issues in Macon County, North Carolina

Richard A. Vercoe, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
M. Welch-Devine, Center for Integrative Conservation Research, University of Georgia
Dean Hardy, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia
J. A. Demoss, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia
S. N. Bonney, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
K. Allen, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia
Peter Brosius, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia
D. Charles, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
B. Crawford, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
S. Heisel, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
Nik Heynen, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
R. G. de Jesús-Crespo, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
N. Nibbelink, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
L. Parker, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
Cathy Pringle, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia
A. Shaw, Department of Geography, University of Georgia
L. Van Sant, Department of Geography, University of Georgia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05970-190123

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Abstract

We applied an integrative framework to illuminate and discuss the complexities of exurbanization in Macon County, North Carolina. The case of Macon County, North Carolina, highlights the complexity involved in addressing issues of exurbanization in the Southern Appalachian region. Exurbanization, the process by which urban residents move into rural areas in search of unique natural amenities and idealized lifestyles, can often have a dramatic impact on the local economy, culture, and environment. Within Macon County, complex debates and tensions among multiple stakeholders struggle to address local residential development. How can better problem definition benefit rural communities in addressing exurbanization pressures and effects? We asserted that a key factor in the shortcomings of previous solutions was the shortsightedness inherent in policy that attempts to treat individual symptoms without being able to adequately characterize the underlying problem. The goal of the integrative framework is to initiate an iterative process of transparent negotiation, which recognizes a range of potential choices to be considered and to embrace the social complexities that can at times overwhelm scholars and practitioners, inviting simplification and polarization of the issues. This new and emerging framework offers a novel way of approaching conservation and development issues where other frameworks have failed. It helps acknowledge the difficult choices, i.e., trade-offs, that have to be made in a material process like exurbanization. Trade-offs will be necessary in any negotiation related to conservation. Therefore, conflict surrounding specific values, e.g., cultural, financial, or ecological, must be acknowledged upfront to move deeper into issues of plurality. Given the complexity, understanding how the process of exurbanization is being played out within Macon County provided not only an opportunity to demonstrate the functionality of an integrative approach, but also a call for further study of exurbanization dynamics.

Key words

conservation; development; ecological; exurbanization; integrative conservation; trade-offs
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087