Environmental planning is a relatively new field of study that aims to merge the practice of urban planning with the concerns of environmentalism. Essentially speaking, while urban planners have traditionally factored in economic development, transportation, sanitation, and other services into their decisions, environmental planners add sustainable (social, ecological & economic) outcomes as important factors in the decision-making process. What exactly constitutes the "Environment", however, is somewhat open to debate among these practitioners, as is the exact scope of the intended environmental benefits. Chief concerns among environmental planners include the encouragement of sustainable development, green building technologies, and the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas.
In the United States, for any project, environmental planners deal with a full range of environmental regulations from federal to state and city levels. A rigorous environmental process has to be undertaken to examine the impacts and possible mitigation of any construction project. The environmental assessments encompass areas such as land use, socioeconomics, transportation, economic and housing characteristics, air, noise, wetlands, endangered species, flood zones, coastal zones, visual studies among others. Depending on the scale and impact of the project, a full-blown environmental review is known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the less extensive version is Environmental Assessment (EA). Procedures follow guidelines from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Quality Review Act(SEQRA) and/or City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) and other related federal or state agencies published regulations.
The Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP) is a non-profit organization of interdisciplinary professionals including environmental science, resource management, environmental planning and other professions contributing to this field. AEP is the first organization of its kind in the USA, and its influence and model have spawned numerous other regional organizations throughout the United States. Its mission is to improve the technical skills of members, and the organization is dedicated to "the enhancement, maintenance and protection of the natural and human environment". From inception in the mid 1970s the organization has been closely linked with the upkeep of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California being one of the first states to adopt a comprehensive law to govern the environmental review of public policy and project review.
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