In recent years, the rapid expansion of metropolitan areas has been termed “urban sprawl,” which refers to a complex pattern of land use, transportation, and social and economic development. The broad phenomenon of sprawl is a variety of issues related to land use, transportation, urban and regional design, and planning. As a result, critics often argue that sprawl has certain disadvantages including: the loss of farmlands and wildlife habitats, high car and technology dependence, air pollution and health hazards, increased and higher per-person infrastructure costs. This essay examines the effects urban sprawl has had on many large and rapid growing cities in California, Wisconsin and Georgia and some of the measures state and city governments are taking in order to help reduce the current effects of urban sprawl.
One of the most affected environments would be America's farmlands. Farmlands are being destroyed due to the creation of new highways, fringe industrial parks, and new sprawled housing developments. Since farmlands are being reduced, the ability to produce food, fiber, and timber has experienced a decline. In addition, the higher tax rates and costs associated with urban sprawl have forced farmers to close down business and sell their farms to companies seeking to develop new housing areas. The loss of farmlands and farmers selling out to contracting companies is a problem that has severely affected the state of Wisconsin. In 1950, Wisconsin had roughly about 23.6 million acres of farmland and as of 2002 only had about 16 million acres. Along with this reduction in farmland area, the number of farms in Wisconsin decreased from 178,000 to 77,000 from 1910 to 2002.
Society is using up farms at an alarming rate across the U.S., to create new highways, fringe industrial parks and sprawled housing developments. This loss reduces our ability to grow food, fiber and timber. In many areas, urban development pressure and increased property taxes are forcing farmers out of business. Farmers often sell their farms for housing developments, to provide financial security for their retirement. This decrease in farmland is not only seen in Wisconsin but also the rest of the country. Between 1992 and 1997, the nation converted more than 13.7 million acres of farmland to urbanized areas.
The loss of wildlife habitat has also been impacted by the changes of urban sprawl. Wild forests, meadows, and wetlands are also disappearing that are replaced by pavement, buildings and sterile urban landscaping. After the reconstruction, the remaining habitat is smaller, degraded and more fragmented, making survival of certain wildlife species very difficult as they try to reach breeding ponds, hibernation sites, feeding locations, or to establish viable nesting areas.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, important habitat types are disappearing. Grasslands, for example, have been depleting as an effect of urban sprawl. Wisconsin has only 0.5 percent, approximately 13,000 acres, of its original grassland ecosystem remaining in a relatively intact condition, but much of this remnant acreage has been degraded to some degree. In addition, more than 50 percent of Wisconsin's original wetlands have been lost. Along the lower Bay of Green Bay, more than 90 percent of the wetlands have been entirely depleted.
The move to the suburbs reflects a lifestyle preference that became a popular trend that was shared by many Americans. Such a major shift in the nation’s demographics...