2004 volume 36(9) pages 1529 – 1547

Cite as:
Hurley P T, Walker P A, 2004, "Whose vision? Conspiracy theory and land-use planning in Nevada County, California" Environment and Planning A 36(9) 1529 – 1547

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Whose vision? Conspiracy theory and land-use planning in Nevada County, California

Patrick T Hurley, Peter A Walker

Received 27 July 2003; in revised form 2 December 2003

Abstract. In this paper we examine the role of claims of global conspiracy in undermining a local environmental planning process known as Natural Heritage 2020 (NH 2020) in Nevada County, California. County officials intended NH 2020 to mitigate the environmental impacts of rapid growth in this gentrifying rural community. This program illustrates the increasing use by land-use planners of landscape-scale approaches derived from conservation biology to protect biodiversity on private land. In Nevada County, this new planning vision met intense resistance. The ensuing struggle demonstrates the conflicts that can arise between social groups with competing visions for the future of the local environment in response to efforts to realize particular visions through land-use planning and policymaking. Opponents perceived a significant threat to their property rights from the use of a landscape-scale vision from conservation biology in county planning, which some depicted as part of a global environmental conspiracy. We explore the links between broader conservation science, ideology, and activism in the case of NH 2020, and suggest that quite real conceptual connections to global conservation politics potentially make local conservation planning efforts susceptible to claims of 'outside' interference. Although NH 2020 had no direct link (despite claims by some opponents) to global conservation efforts, the successful use of claims of global conspiracy in efforts to halt the program underscores social realities that planners and scholars need to consider when promoting what they often view as simply 'good planning.'

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