New Radio report brings pressing Land-Use issues to life

New Radio report brings pressing Land-Use issues to life

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A public radio project helps listeners understand the forces altering America’s landscape, and how individuals and communities are trying to wrest back control.

February 28, 2008 Middlebury, VT – A groundbreaking radio report examining the impacts of land policy on people and communities begins airing today on National Public Radio’s acclaimed afternoon news program All Things Considered.

The first episode looks at a community in Nevada that’s trying to save its rural character in the face of suburban growth. In this story, the central figure is a donkey. The animal’s braying landed its owners in court for violating a noise ordinance, and a verdict against the animal sparked a community uprising in defense of livestock ownership. It’s a small story – of one donkey, one community – but the larger issue should resonate with listeners wherever they live: How can a community save its essential character as new people, with new values, move in?

“From the start, I wanted the reports to stand out not just in substance, but in style,” Shifting Ground producer David Baron said. “Stories about land use are often technical and abstract. Zoning, setbacks, comprehensive plans – just mention the terms, and eyes glaze over. I decided the key would be storytelling, and though the stories are place-specific, they touch on issues that listeners can relate to, wherever they live.”

An award-winning author and journalist, Baron has worked in public radio for more than 20 years, previously as science and environment correspondent for NPR, and science editor for the Public Radio International-BBC program The World. His book, The Beast in the Garden, explores the growing conflict between people and wildlife in suburban America. Support for Shifting Ground comes from the Orton Family Foundation and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Public radio listeners over the years have shown tremendous interest in stories about the community and the land, according to Baron. Although the reports will deal with broad themes, they will address those themes through compelling stories of real people confronting real land-use decisions, and it will use sophisticated storytelling and sound-rich production of the sort that has made NPR famous.

Shifting Ground reveals the difficult tradeoffs that planning inevitably involves, providing a glimpse of what America’s future landscape could look like and how cities and towns are trying to shape that future. Listeners will learn how abstract policies result in real changes on the ground, and it will showcase innovative tools and practices citizens may want to use in their own towns. “I hope, over time, this growing compilation of stories will serve as a resource for citizens, educators, community organizers and anyone else interested in land use issues,” Baron said.

Future Shifting Ground stories will be broadcast on All Things Considered in the weeks and months ahead. The radio series and supplemental material will be archived on the Web at the Shifting Ground site, www.shifting-ground.com.