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American Society of Landscape Architects


April 2007 Issue

State and local regulations can have a serious impact on practice, so political engagement is part of the cost of practicing landscape architecture.

By Linda McIntyre

PROTECT YOUR TURF! Photo Courtesy of James Yang/

If youíre like most landscape architects, you think politics has little impact on your day-to-day life. Youíve got more important things to do, such as managing your business, meeting deadlines, accruing continuing education units, and watching your kidsí soccer games. You canít be expected to keep up with everything that happens in the statehouse or the county executiveís office.

Think again. Landscape architecture is a heavily regulated business, and the rules governing practice can change at a momentís notice. Sometimes the authorities on whom landscape architects depend for permit approvals misconstrue laws and regulations, even when they havenít changed.

Seemingly small machinations by state, regional, and local governmentsóadoption of a model ordinance, an amendment to a building code, a sunset reviewócan have a devastating impact on a practice, and itís best not to find out about them when your plan doesnít get approved and you have to find an engineer, any engineer, to stamp your documents. Itís better yet if landscape architects can stop these actions from happening in the first place, or at least have some say in the process.

Landscape Architecture talked to landscape architects around the country about their experiences in the hope of encouraging discussion among practitioners, highlighting some strategies for success, and driving home the necessity of sustained political engagement. Itís time-consuming and expensive, and it has to be done over the long haul to be most effective. Itís often thankless for the people leading the charge, who are sometimes showered with complaints about costs rather than plaudits for results (or a lack of bad results). But political engagement can make the difference between landscape architectsí ability to practice to the full extent of their training and skills or being relegated, as Matt Langston, ASLA, puts it, to "planting bushes for the rest of your career."

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