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(Photo: Woodland management project- Blue Springs Golf Course, Ontario)

Principles for Sustainable Resource Management

Central to achieving our environmental mission is the concept of sustainability.  That is: using resources in a manner that meets our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  To do so, we must foster thriving human communities rooted in ecological integrity, economic strength, and social and cultural integration.

Audubon International’s Principles for Sustainable Resource Management set forth the ideas and types of activities that Audubon International considers critical to help us move forward toward more sustainable patterns of land use and sustainable resource management.  They were first developed by our staff in the 1990s and revised in 2005, based on fifteen years of working with communities, land managers, owners, partner organizations, environmental experts, and numerous citizens.

Total sustainability cannot happen overnight, of course, but must depend on many small steps, collaborative and individual efforts, and political and social will.  The principles offer guidance for taking those steps and beginning a journey toward a more sustainable future.



I.  Building a Foundation for Sustainability- Fundamental Concepts

II. The Principles

Principles for Sustainable Resource Management
Revised February 2005, Audubon International

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Audubon International
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I.  Building a Foundation for Sustainability

Biological diversity – defined broadly as the spectacular diversity of life on Earth – is key to the ultimate health and survival of humans and our environment.  Preserving that diversity demands that we protect and conserve natural resources, on which all life depends.

Sustainable resource management, which includes sustainable development, entails using natural resources in ways beneficial to human beings, while maintaining their availability to support biological diversity and continuing human use in the future.  Sustainability can be the hallmark of the coming years – if we choose to embrace it over current patterns of consumption and development that pay little heed to the requirements of future generations of life in all forms.


Audubon International’s view of sustainable resource management, then, rests on these fundamental concepts:

  • Sustainable resource management strives to ensure that the effects of our actions now maintain or even enhance, rather than diminish, the quality of life in our environment for future generations.
  • Sustainable resource management fosters natural resource conservation and continued proper functioning of healthy ecosystems.
  • Sustainable resource management promotes production, consumption, and waste management practices that allow us to keep resources available for use indefinitely.
  • Sustainable resource management requires short-term and long-term decision-making that aims to protect or enhance watersheds, plants, wildlife, human life, and our economic and social systems for the benefit of future generations.

These concepts should be articulated and embraced by landowners and developers at the inception of any land use development and adopted by everyone associated with the project. In the case of development of a community, they should be passed along to all who will live, work, and play there after it is built.


II. Principles for Sustainable Resource Management

Audubon International’s principles form a philosophical foundation by which a community, as well as organizations, families, and individuals within it, may work toward a sustainable future. To that end, Audubon International urges that local and global communities:  

  • Encourage resource management practices that have the greatest positive impact on plant and wildlife species, water, and the ecosystems that sustain life.
  • Strive to use resources that are most easily renewed.
  • Strive to eliminate or reduce the use of resources that are difficult or impossible to renew.
  • Encourage activities that result in identifying new resources and technologies and enhance our current resource base in ways that will maximize positive impacts on the overall quality of life and the environment.
  • Encourage human activities and practices that conserve water and protect or enhance water quality on a local and global basis.
  • Encourage human activities, practices, and land uses that support ecosystems that maintain and enhance biodiversity.
  • Consider the geographic and ecological contexts in which our actions take place, and at the same time strive to manage resources within the natural limitations and opportunities defined by ecosystems and geographic boundaries.

These principles are intended to serve, preferably, a community as a whole as it evolves, providing an educational and philosophical foundation, as well as a living guide, for all those who work, live, or recreate in the community. Consequently, in the case of a new community these principles should be displayed throughout the community as a joint commitment between those who build it and those who live in it. The following examples of resource management activities demonstrate how the principles for sustainable resource management can be applied to current and future resource management decisions.


Site Specific Assessment

Before land-use changes take place, it is crucial to understand the characteristics of the site subject to proposed changes. A comprehensive site survey includes:

  • Identifying the geographic and topographic features and demographics of the area.
  • Identifying the area’s unique ecological and biological resources, to protect and conserve them.
  • Identifying the area’s physical attributes, such as geology, mineral resources, hydrology, soil types, wind patterns, and sunshine patterns, to provide a basis, in conjunction with other site assessment data, for environmentally sound choices on whether to develop the site, types of suitable development, suitable power supplies, etc.
  • Identifying sites of archeological, natural, historical, or cultural significance in the area, to protect and conserve them.
  • Identifying land uses in the vicinity, to provide a basis for assessing compatibility of proposed changes and uses.
  • Specifying the proposed areas of change and establishing parameters for future changes beyond those areas.

Habitat Sensitivity

Sustainable resource management entails careful attention to the wildlife habitat of an area or region. Managing land in a habitat-sensitive way includes:

  • Protecting ecologically sensitive areas from all degrading impacts.
  • Not disturbing local wildlife populations by degrading food or water sources, shelter from predators or weather, or breeding habitat.
  • Not posing threats to species directly or indirectly through increased air or water pollution.
  • Avoiding or minimizing increases of ambient noise levels in the area during and following changes in land use.
  • Providing for migratory species’ access to habitual routes, food and water sources, and breeding grounds.
  • Maintaining corridors and greenspace that will allow for the movement of plants and animals among habitat areas.

Natural Landscaping

Sustainable resource management should emphasize landscaping with a variety of materials and resources native to an area, and maintaining them in a natural condition. Natural landscaping includes:

  • Except for social purpose areas such as agricultural lands, recreational use areas, and work areas, preserving or enhancing species of vegetation native to the natural region and, to the extent practical, removing species of vegetation not native to that region.
  • Maximizing the size and number of natural or naturalized patches within the area and maximizing the use of natural or naturalized corridors to tie those patches together.
  • Preserving and adding species to establish a wide variety of plants native to the region.
  • Preserving or enhancing a variety of different types of habitat, such as forest, wetland, streamsides, pond margins, and meadows and grasslands.
  • Preserving or enhancing a variety of vertical layers of plants, such as canopy and understory trees, shrubs, and ground cover.
  • Retaining dead standing trees, fallen trees, logs, and vegetative litter, such as fallen branches, twigs, and leaves.
  • Not using pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or irrigation in natural or naturalized areas, patches, or corridors.

Water Conservation and Water Quality Protection

Water is vital to all life, yet it is one of our most misused, mismanaged, and misunderstood resources. We make deserts bloom year round and have expanded populations in area that are running out of water. Good water conservation and water quality protection techniques include:

  • Using a rainwater collection or gray water system for watering grounds, flushing toilets, etc., and otherwise recapturing and reusing water resources.
  • Minimizing water usage by monitoring it and by installing low-flow devices.
  • Evaluating sustainable yields for the lowest flow periods of water supply and designing to accommodate those periods.
  • Maximizing use of native and naturalized plants and turf that are biologically appropriate for the natural region, to avoid or minimize use of irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Properly designing and maintaining irrigation systems to use only the minimum water needed, only where needed.
  • Controlling erosion and runoff.
  • Avoiding or minimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, avoiding their use entirely near water bodies, and storing, handling, and disposing of them in ways that will not result in contamination to water bodies.
  • Using organic fertilizers, where fertilization is necessary.
  • Avoiding direct drainage to water from areas where fertilizers or pesticides are used, and maintaining vegetative buffer strips along the margins of water bodies to filter fertilizers, pesticides, other contaminants, and sediments.

Waste Management

The first goal of waste management should be not to generate waste. We must rethink how we purchase and consume goods, to reduce waste generation as much as possible in the first place. To the extent that waste is generated, more sustainable waste management measures include:

  • Recycling or reusing solid or liquid wastes, including hazardous wastes, whenever possible.
  • Continually monitoring and assessing how much solid and liquid wastes are being generated, with a view to further reduction of generation.
  • Composting all organic wastes.
  • Disposing of non-recyclable wastes in an environmentally sensitive manner.
  • Periodically reviewing waste reduction strategies and recycling methods used.
  • Exploring low capital, low maintenance alternatives for wastewater treatment systems.


Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources

Nothing short of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) and nuclear power will be sustainable. In any event, sustainable energy strategies include:

  • Minimizing energy consumption through conservation and use of energy efficient technologies in all sectors of the economy, including industry, agriculture, service provision, commercial buildings and residences, and transportation.
  • Emphasizing use of:
    • Photovoltaic solar power.
    • Wind power.
    • Geothermal power.
    • Wave and tide generated power.
    • Hydro-electric power, particularly small-scale or low-head, run-of-the-river power at existing dams.
    • Cleaner burning non-fossil, plant-derived fuels, such as ethanol.


Measures to promote more sustainable resource management in transportation include:

  • Expanding the availability of public transportation in developed areas.
  • Making energy-efficient public transportation available in development of new urban and suburban areas.
  • Using available public transportation.
  • Encouraging low-impact transportation by providing sidewalks, walking trails, and bicycle paths.
  • Using available sidewalks, walking trails, and bicycle paths instead of powered vehicles.
  • Reducing cross-country transportation of goods by diversifying local sources.
  • Developing infrastructure changes that support the use of more energy-efficient and cleaner burning fuel technologies in vehicles (such as electric battery charging stations, compressed natural gas refueling stations).
  • Deploying more energy-efficient and cleaner burning fuel technologies (such as electric, hybrid electric, and compressed natural gas) in public transportation systems, government and private fleets of trucks and automobiles, and individual private vehicles.

Greenspace and Corridors

Urban parks, forested zones, native grassland areas, and stream corridors reaching into urbanized areas are important elements of sustainability. In this respect, sustainable resource management includes:

  • Identifying and preserving greenspaces and corridors of high wildlife habitat and water quality value within cities and other communities.
  • Maintaining corridors that connect areas and allowing for wildlife movement through and across property boundaries and between adjacent areas.
  • Providing access to appropriate greenspaces for educational and recreational experiences.


Sustainable resource management in agriculture includes:

  • Protecting prime agricultural production areas.
  • Promoting regional food self-sufficiency to the extent possible.
  • Improving the efficiency of low input farming methods.
  • Improving irrigation and drainage systems to minimize water use and protect water quality.
  • Integrating livestock management with food crop and vegetative management to improve soil fertility.
  • Encouraging the use of integrated pest management (IPM) practices at all farms and agriculture facilities.
  • Promoting the use of greenhouse farming.
  • Promoting the use of aquaculture.

Building Design

Improved design of individual buildings is essential for sustainable resource management. Everything from lighting to composting food scraps must be considered. Sustainability in building design includes:

  • Incorporating energy efficient design approaches for:
    • Heating/cooling.
    • Ventilation.
    • Building materials.
    • Appliances.
    • Lighting.
    • Cooking.
    • Water use.
    • Space.
  • Efficient waste handling and recycling programs.
  • Applying landscaping practices that minimize maintenance, such as employing native or naturalized plants.
  • Using building materials that will not become hazardous waste or impossible to dispose of in an environmentally safe manner at the ends of their useful lives.

Community Design

Beyond the specific design of a structure, there is the issue of how proper design and planning put together an entire sustainable community. Where does the food come from? Where do people work and play? How are the sustainable patterns of behavior applied at the broader level of the community as a whole? Sustainable resource management in community design, whether development of an entirely new one or planned expansion of an existing one, includes:

·         Protecting the area’s sustainable resources.

·         Encouraging low impact transportation, like walking, bicycling, etc.

·         Working with the contours of the land to avoid excessive mechanical land and soil movement, such as blasting and filling.

·         Clustering structures, to facilitate maximizing open space.

·         To the greatest extent possible, clustering residences and commercial facilities necessary to support them, such as groceries and shops, within distances where they are reasonably accessible to each other by low impact transportation, like walking or bicycling.

·         Providing recycling and composting centers; and encouraging provision of exchange [and reuse stations, for items such as used clothing, appliances, and house wares.

·         Providing infrastructure, such as charging or refueling stations, for forms of transportation that rely on alternative sources of energy.

·         Providing a multi-purpose community / environmental education center.

·         Minimizing the use of impermeable surfaces for drives and parking lots.

·         Continually looking for and taking advantage of opportunities to “re-claim” previously degraded environments.


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