What Are the Best Practices for Real Estate Development Around Protected Natural Areas?

February 3, 2024

When it comes to real estate development, particularly in regions rich in natural areas like Florida, a delicate balance must be struck. On one hand, there exists a need for housing and commercial properties, but on the other, the preservation of our natural world and its many species is crucial to the health of our planet and our communities. This raises the important question: how can realtors and developers tread lightly on the land they wish to develop, particularly when that land is adjacent to or includes protected natural areas? From understanding local conservation efforts to implementing sustainable site development practices, this article explores the best practices for real estate development around protected natural areas.

Understanding Conservation Efforts

Before breaking ground on a new development, it’s crucial to understand the conservation efforts already in place in the area. This includes not only state and federal laws, but also the initiatives undertaken by local communities and organizations such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

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In Florida, for example, much of the land is home to unique and endangered species. These special creatures are often protected by conservation efforts that might restrict or guide development. Respect for these efforts is not only a legal necessity, but also a sign of good citizenship and a positive reputational marker.

Realtors should take the time to understand these efforts, find out which species are protected, and learn more about the local ecosystems. This information will be invaluable when planning a development and can help prevent costly legal issues down the line.

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Involving Local Communities

A key strategy in successful land development is involving local communities early on in the planning process. This can help to ensure the project is well-received and meets the needs of the community while also respecting the natural environment.

Local communities often have a deep understanding of the local environment and can provide important insights into the potential impacts of a planned development. They can also offer suggestions for how to minimize these impacts, and may even be able to suggest alternative development strategies that can achieve the same goals with less impact on the natural areas.

Involving local communities has the added benefit of creating a sense of ownership over the project. People are more likely to support developments they feel they had a hand in shaping, and this can help to smooth the path for successful project completion.

Planning Sustainable Developments

When planning a new development, conservation should be a primary consideration. This includes not only protecting special species and natural areas but also considering how the development will impact the broader environment.

A sustainable development plan will consider factors such as water use, energy efficiency, and waste management. It will seek to minimize the project’s carbon footprint and might incorporate features such as solar panels, water recycling systems, and energy-efficient building designs.

When planning the site layout, developers should also consider how to best integrate the development with the existing natural landscape. This might mean preserving existing trees and plant life, or incorporating green spaces into the design of the development.

Following Best Practices in Site Development

Once the development plan has been approved, careful attention to site development practices can help to protect the natural areas. This includes practices such as:

  • Avoiding land clearing during the breeding season of protected species
  • Minimizing light and noise pollution that could disrupt wildlife
  • Using construction materials that are sustainably sourced
  • Implementing erosion and sediment control measures to protect waterways

By following these and other best practices, developers can ensure the construction process itself is also as sustainable and minimally disruptive as possible.

Monitoring and Adapting

Finally, it’s important to remember that land development isn’t a one-time process. Even after a development is complete, ongoing monitoring and adaptations may be necessary to ensure the long-term health of the surrounding natural areas.

This might involve monitoring the impacts of the development on local wildlife populations, conducting regular environmental impact assessments, or making modifications to the development as needed. By remaining committed to environmental stewardship even after the development is complete, developers can help ensure the long-term sustainability of both the built and natural environments.

Utilizing Advanced Technologies

Adopting advanced technologies is a prime component in developing a real estate project around a protected natural area. Innovations such as Geographic Information System (GIS) can provide insights into the physical and biological characteristics of the land. This information can assist developers in understanding the biodiversity of the area, the topography, and potential environmental risks.

In addition, remote sensing technologies such as drones and satellites can provide highly detailed imagery of the area. This technology can help to monitor the environmental impacts of a project from start to finish. It’s particularly useful in detecting changes in land cover, identifying potential threats to wildlife, and ensuring that construction activities are in line with the approved development plans.

Further, building information modeling (BIM) can aid in the design and construction of environmentally sensitive developments. BIM allows for the creation of detailed digital representations of buildings, aiding in the visualization of how a development will interact with the surrounding natural environment. It allows developers to optimize building designs for energy efficiency, reducing the development’s environmental footprint.

Using technologies such as GIS, remote sensing, and BIM can greatly assist in ensuring the sustainability and environmental compliance of real estate projects. These technologies provide a more detailed understanding of the land, enable constant monitoring of environmental impacts, and facilitate the creation of environmentally friendly building designs.

Collaboration with Environmental Experts

When developing around protected natural areas, collaboration with environmental experts is a must. Environmental scientists, wildlife biologists, and conservation specialists bring invaluable knowledge to the table. Their insights can help developers to better understand the local ecosystem, identify potential impacts of the project on the environment, and craft solutions to minimize these impacts.

Specialists can also advise on the best times to conduct site surveys to avoid disturbing wildlife, and suggest measures to ensure ongoing environmental monitoring and management once the development is complete. They can provide guidance on the types of plants to include in landscaping plans that are native to the area and support local wildlife.

Working with environmental experts not only reduces the risk of legal issues arising from non-compliance with environmental regulations but also enhances the sustainability of the project. This partnership ultimately demonstrates the commitment of the developers to preserving the natural environment, further improving the reputation of the developers and the acceptance of the project by the community.


In conclusion, developing real estate near protected natural areas requires a careful, thoughtful approach. Understanding local conservation efforts, consulting local communities, planning sustainable developments, following best practices in site development and, importantly, monitoring and adapting are all important steps in the process. Utilizing advanced technologies and collaborating with environmental experts further ensures that the development is sustainable and minimally disruptive.

While the process may be complex and challenging, it is undoubtedly rewarding. Successful projects not only provide much-needed property spaces but also contribute to the preservation of our precious natural areas. As we move forward in an increasingly urbanized world, these best practices serve as a guide for responsible, sustainable real estate development.