The Ahwahnee Principles for Resource-Efficient Communities, written in 1991 by the Local Government Commission, paved the way for the Smart Growth movement and New Urbanism. These principles provide a blueprint for elected officials to create compact, mixed-use, walkable, transit-oriented developments in their local communities. Cities and counties across the nation have adopted them to break the cycle of sprawl. If you like the newly emerging downtowns across the nation – full of people, activities and great public spaces – that’s the Ahwahnee Principles in action. Since then, the Ahwahnee Principles for Economic Development in 1997, the Ahwahnee Water Principles in 2005 and the Ahwahnee Principles for Climate Change in 2008 have been developed to complement this pioneering vision.
Prosperity in the 21st Century will be based on creating and maintaining a sustainable standard of living and a high quality of life for all. To meet this challenge, a comprehensive new model is emerging which recognizes the economic value of natural and human capital. Embracing economic, social, and environmental responsibility, this approach focuses on the most critical building blocks for success, the community and the region. It emphasizes community-wide and regional collaboration for building prosperous and livable places. While each community and region has unique challenges and opportunities, the following common principles should guide an integrated approach by all sectors to promoting economic vitality within their communities, and in partnership with their neighbors in the larger region.
Cities and counties are facing major challenges with water contamination, storm water runoff, flood damage liability, and concerns about whether there will be enough reliable water for current residents as well as for new development. These issues impact city and county budgets and taxpayers. Fortunately there are a number of stewardship actions that cities and counties can take that reduce costs and improve the reliability and quality of our water resources.
Climate change is not just another environmental issue. Concentrations of human-induced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have already reached unprecedented levels and are causing well-documented adverse changes to our planet’s physical and biological systems. We must act decisively to reverse this trend, to lessen the potentially devastating environmental, economic and social impacts that could result. At the same time, we must predict and prepare for, and adapt to, the unavoidable climatic changes that will likely occur due to the high concentration of greenhouse gas pollutants that are already in the atmosphere. Local governments are on the front line, both in dealing with the impacts of climate change and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Ahwahnee Principles for Climate Change, adopted in 2008, provide specific guidance for local governments to follow in addressing this urgent and often overwhelming challenge.