Purdue University Graduate School
2023.7.25 Salazar Dissertation FINAL.pdf (1.87 MB)

Exploring the role of environmental planning and community development in informing local government policies: Opportunities, challenges, and recommendations for sustainable development

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posted on 2023-08-07, 17:11 authored by Kara SalazarKara Salazar


Environmental planning decisions are complex and influenced by many factors, such as federal, state, and local regulations, community values, and economic and environmental considerations. Across the United States, local elected and appointed boards and commissions are responsible for planning and implementing land use regulations. Using Indiana communities as a case study, this study focused on understanding the roles of environmental planning and community development in adopting local government policies related to sustainable development. Opportunities, challenges, and trends facing diverse Indiana communities were explored through focus groups and surveys, specifically focusing on local ordinances, comprehensive plans, and parks and recreation master plans as policy instruments. Factors of interest included environmental and sustainable development considerations in plans and ordinances, the engagement of residents, stakeholders, and other interested parties in local environmental planning processes and decision-making, the potential influence of collaboration and social capital in planning and decision-making, and technical assistance and resource needs for planners and parks and recreation staff. 

Indiana communities are integrating environmental considerations into local ordinances and policies on a limited scale based on multiple factors such as local expertise, staff time, awareness, community and political acceptance, and immediate needs. Communities have little time allocated to incorporate voluntary efforts and rely most on peer groups and existing staff for models and information sharing with private consultants filling in gaps for plan and ordinance updates. There are multiple opportunities to expand environmental conservation and sustainable development efforts through increasing the diversity of local boards and commissions, enhancing community engagement, identifying and supporting succinct and targeted training for planning and parks and recreation professionals, and tapping into state and federal funding opportunities to build on local successes that build credibility and interest for broader adoption. Additional emphasis on communication and collaboration are also needed to move towards more engaged planning and policy development methods.


Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Agricultural Science and Extension for Economic Development (AgSEED) program

Hoosiers for Renewables

Indiana Farm Bureau


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Linda Prokopy

Additional Committee Member 2

Lionel Beaulieu

Additional Committee Member 3

Zhao Ma

Additional Committee Member 4

Rhonda Phillips