Gold Country: the politics of landscape in exurban El Dorado County, California

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Low-density exurban landscapes threaten ecosystems and pose challenges for urban and regional planning, especially in nations with relatively weak rural land use regulation like the United States. Growth management efforts in such areas have generally been difficult due to strong pro-development forces and cultures of landowner rights. This article explores the political ecology of planning in one such exurban place, El Dorado County in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento, California. Through review of historical documents, news articles, over a dozen interviews with knowledgeable local actors, and GIS analysis of growth patterns, we discuss how a demobilization of local planning develops through dynamics of power, fear, distrust, and antagonism. We explore some possible strategies for developing stronger local planning mechanisms, including more collaborative planning, better articulation of alternative growth models, and strengthened state and regional planning frameworks.

Keywords: Exurbia, political ecology, urban planning, landscape, cultural geography, California

How to Cite: Beebe, C. & Wheeler, S. M. (2012) “Gold Country: the politics of landscape in exurban El Dorado County, California”, Journal of Political Ecology. 19(1). doi: