Protecting areas subject to natural hazards is often a dilemma between balancing economic and legal uses of land and promoting public safety and protecting the lives of residents. The government’s role in protecting the people from natural hazard must tread the line between safety and not infringing on property rights of land owners. The federal, state, and local government primarily regulates land uses from natural hazards by incorporating disincentives or promoting land use planning. Local governments are often averse to regulating land use planning for hazard mitigation. The perception of disaster unless directly affected in the recent past infuses a sense of complacency. Also focus on other problems on the agenda puts hazard mitigation at a lower priority level. Remedial actions for built up areas can be expensive and difficult to implement due to social and political pressure.
However two factors can directly affect the use of local government’s use of land use planning and development management programs – commitment of local officials and capacity of local governments. These factors can be directly affected by the extent of community resources that public officials are willing to dedicate for mitigation and the influence of the political climate that pushes these issues up in the public consciousness.
The federal government addresses mitigation issues through a range of programs aimed at land use and development in vulnerable areas. Although the federal government prefers the local government to intervene to regulate land use planning, it also uses an overarching controlling role in preserving wetlands and high-risk areas. The federal government primarily uses investment policies to offer incentives in order to put in place remedial measures; for e.g. The National Flood Insurance Act.
The Stafford Act is intended to offer a comprehensive look at mitigation strategies and provide integrated approaches but differing goals in different states and bureaucratic tangles have not made much difference. The federal government however acts in patchwork of programs that target specific areas instead of providing a broad-based approach and strategy. The federal programs have instead shown a stronger preference for protective methods rather than mitigation and preventive approaches that effectively increase the potential for damage. Stronger land use provisions are avoiding in federal mandate and instead rely on the local governments to enforce them, who in turn differ widely in their application of such regulations.
The states on the other hand have developed a variety of programs for vulnerable regions. Although special attention has been paid to environmentally sensitive areas, protection of regions vulnerable to natural hazards such as flooding, earthquake, or hurricanes has been given low priority. The variation in state programs is attributable to various factors that stem from either the economic or political climate of the regions. The state comprehensive planning mandates have provided a sense of direction to the local governments but due to lack of regional cooperation, such mandates lead to limited and sporadic changes. The goal divergence and mistrust among different levels of the governments are also partly to blame for the inconsistencies of different state policies.
Reference: Summary – Chapter 3: Cooperating With Nature: Confronting Natural Hazards With Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities (Natural Hazards and Disasters)