Always watch for outdated information. This unit is dated. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your Rural System specialist.
RRx, A Dynamic Diagnostic and Prescriptive System for Owners and Managers of Rural Areas "Double-R x" is proposed "software" system that produces a unique changing book on demand for a land owner or manager. It is a dynamic, modern, sophisticated system for providing superior plans for the lands and waters of private owners. RRx is code for a group of concepts, principles, procedures, hardware, software, marketing, required facilities and equipment, and staff that can help improve land-use and resource-related decisions. It is a means within Rural System to help increase employment, improve community stability, and improve natural resource management. It presents lasting significant profit incentives for doing this. It is software (and associated systems) that produces reports for land owners in both electronic and hard-copy form. It incorporates the best knowledge available for decision makers based on research and expert experience. The system includes GIS images and syntheses for specific sites and provides backups and in-depth instructional documents, references, a glossary, and suggestions. Beyond analyses and descriptions (the diagnostics) the system presents prescriptions which are the results of optimization. The results are well-supported best estimates of actions to take to stabilize profits within the context of owner's objectives and a well-functioning ecosystem. Benefits are maximized and costs and risks are minimized, subject to achieving, legally, an expected, above-bank-interest-rate-annually for 150 years (with computations sliding forward annually). Sensitive to natural community and diversity needs, there may be many other constraints that are part of the objective. A system is developed for a single ownership and one for a cluster of areas under contract
RRx provides information and guidance for making difficult, multifaceted, high-risk land use and development decisions that have long-term rural effects. It assures that lands, waters and people are not being exploited and that modern land use can take place while being ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible. It assures adequate protection is provided for special areas of exceptional importance for values such as scenery, biodiversity, or water quality.
It is a prototype for a dynamic planning system for large areas and an alternative for land use "zoning.". A first draft concept of it has already delivered to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Maryland, as part of its environmental planning process. An advanced system is now being developed for the U.S. Army, Ft. A. P. Hill, Virginia (1998). It emerged from work with TVA and with a county-level comprehensive planning effort. It is being recommended (2005) for George Washington National Forest planning.
The latest concept for RRx is of a system that produces a plan for a landowner (farm, military area, county, forest, park, etc.) available from a World Wide Web site. Adequate security is provided. The landowner can call up his or her plan at any time, see color images, photographs, graphs, maps, etc. (i.e., hypermedia) and the latest information about the area and the plan. Models for components of everyone's plans are managed and improved from a central office but each person's plan remains directed to their personal objectives and local conditions.
Replacing confusing concepts of planning (there are some 40 definitions of planning), RRx system unifies GIS, simulation, optimization, ecological databases, and general information (e.g., a 100-page glossary, available in electronic form). The system allows landowners to learn about the land and make decisions appropriate for the present and to account for changes in the future system.
The plan is changed from "that dusty book on the shelf," out of date before it was printed and delivered. It is now the dynamically changing and improving system within the computer. A book can be produced but the usual user will use it as a hypertext, moving forward and backward, first a graph, then a chapter, then a glossary term, then back to check how the objectives had been stated, then in other creative ways.
A singular, generic system produces a unique book for each management area or unit. The book is like a good newspaper, that is, out-of-date tomorrow, a "throwaway." The system shifts emphasis from the plan to a planning system, a computer-based entity being continually updated, revised, edited, expanded, and made more interactive than the day before. RRx may include color pictures of historical conditions, television clips of herd conditions, computer programs that may be accessed for detailed local work, color graphs that summarize data accumulated and re-analyzed since the range fire last week caused all statistics to change and new optima to emerge. The system can replace "planning" concepts for large land units (e.g., the 500 National Wildlife Refuges, the source of the original recognized need for such cost effectiveness). It is now concentrated on areas of Virginia.
Describing large, complex systems is not only difficult but also always unsatisfactory. People approach problems and solution systems differently, so there is never the proper place to start a description. RRx is a system of concepts, a framework of action, and computer support. A prototype and new parts do exist. Trying to unify the interests, as always, is the major task that is last addressed, usually too late to avoid conflicts. RRx has been proposed as the unifying means. The system is not likely to solve all land use problems. That is too stringent a requirement, however one conspicuous limitation is enough to have an otherwise-excellent system dismissed. RRx needs to be developed further for it may become a standard for comparing other approaches or paradigms. It contains the means for its own correction.
Over time, the system will surely be demonstrated to provide substantial cost and time saving, even more importantly, to improve the quality of the decision process. It will provide a stable resource of information and offer continuity in knowledge about local ecosystems and management policies. As a training aid for changing personnel with diverse education and experience, it may become invaluable.
The system is designed so that it can be used for a large farm and many types of tracts of land. Conceptually, it is right for the nation, perhaps world, but practical and political limitations label such thoughts as infeasible. RRx operates for some named land units, a region. It seeks to address comprehensive planning and land use issues for the land volume typically several hundred acres to a multi-county area. By emphasis on volume, we embrace all phenomena above the land (e.g., air quality) as well as on and below it (e.g., groundwater and minerals). A three-dimensional worldview begins the break with traditional efforts. A fourth dimension, time, is also dominant. The two major outputs of the system are (1) plans and (2) decision aids, answers to "what does a proposed change really do?" RRx is a dynamic set of programs (now under development) within a relatively small computer. Overly simplified, it is: (1) a word processor with standard files, (2) a file of data, (3) a set of computer programs, and (3) a merge statement. The file is continually changing as data change, as new programs are written and results produced, and as entry of any new factor changes numbers in many places throughout the file. The data are linked as if in a small ecosystem, many are related to each other. One change in data causes changes in models throughout the system. The changed results are put in the file. The merge command fills in the blanks in the text. There are ancillary materials that rarely change such as photographs of seeds or slides of pathogenic materials. The total plan may not be of interest on a particular day, but a new "plan" or part may be created at any time - any part - any table - any chapter - and sent electronically to where it can be used . . . or merely viewed on a screen. Paper copies are no longer required, but they may be produced.
The plan, as expected, influences the character of the decision aids, the second major product of the system. Decisions in general range from "what cereal to eat for breakfast?" to "where to locate a trans-Alaska pipeline?" This system is for important land use decisions. Implicit within it is that almost all decisions have a major land use component. Everything occurs in the volume. It is likely that at least one environmental factor influences every decision (e.g., noise influencing health care, recreation, and schools). The major components of the system are shown in Table 1. On one-hand it is a land use system, on the other, a system to provide guidance for managing the total human system.
The decision aids from the system are expected to emerge in answers to conventional questions such as: Can I mine here?, What is the best place for a new school?, Where is the optimum powerline corridor? (Giles 1976, 1977a, Giles et al. 1976); Where is the best place for a new general aviation airport? (Koeln 1980), What are the effects of a new tax on grazing intensity?
A scenario is that a developer requests information for placement of structures at a point with coordinates x and y in a region. RRx answer: "No, for the following main reason, but OK at location x + 3, y - 2." The intent of such a response is to provide clear answers and assistance and more as discussed later. The system does not make decisions. These remain personal and within the political system. It does provide more information, better processed than ever before, and makes support for going against the output of the system very difficult. With inadequate information, strongly biased special-interest forces are difficult to control. RRx may reduce this power. Thwarted political power, however, may kill the system. The philosophy "Information is power" is true for people in general, but it may be deadly for individuals (or systems). The potentials of the system raise exciting opportunities and potential radical changes ahead in land use policy.
A central concept of RRx is that problems exist in the gap between objectives and the present state. It is possible to develop a concept of a nearly perfect condition of the region that might be expressed as a score. If we call that best score R*, then we can evaluate the current condition (or that condition after some proposed development, land use change, or program) and call it R. R is a total system performance index (Churchman 1968). This seems to lurch into treacherous grounds for some people. A reality is that people in an area need an answer to "how are we doing?" Some people argue that individual factors or conditions should be presented and each person can summarize them in any way they like. RRx is grounded in ecology, in the concept that things are related in almost incomprehensible ways with synergism, non-linear relations, limits, and thresholds. The power developed over years of research now allows us to do new syntheses, to "get it all together." Formal synthesis exceeding the power of the unaided human brain is now available and needs to be used.
R and R* have over 300 components or criteria (Giles 1977b, 1981). These are the objectives. We start the design and development of RRx with fundamental epistemology, the question of how would we know we were doing well with the land or region or how would we know if we had an excellent condition. The appropriate answer to this question is taken to be: when we are achieving our objectives. We have gained citizen taskforce inputs and student involvement over 10 years and developed such a list of objectives. They are of the form (in two brief examples): (1) to minimize erosion, and (2) to maximize human access to land. As is evident, these (as other objectives) are in conflict. Maximizing access will very likely increase erosion. The tradeoffs are made within the computer program. The formulation of the objective is a major advance within RRx concept. It sums for
The score for a region or large management area, R, may be plotted over time. Historical estimates may be made, but in general, attention is on how to minimize A, the difference between the actual score and the desired condition. The score for an area may be increased (or decreased) by re-stating and changing one or more dimensions of the large set of objectives. The formulation for the objectives is complex but now manageable. Inability to develop this expression and compute it has been at the heart of past public land use problems. Conflicts arise between people when any one of their eight above listed elements are dissimilar!
Public as well as private land managers, researchers, professors, and consultants wrestle with a problem that resists being named. It is the "equitable-profitable-proper-landuse-for-owner-and-other-citizens-now-and-sustained-indefinitely" problem. The solution to this complex problem is within a complex system, RRx.
It is a small wonder that any land use decision is ever made. The R* value is estimated every few years for it changes as citizen demand, values, etc. change. The R value also changes, hopefully moving more closely to R* under wise management. There may be unavoidable setbacks such as from fires and floods and rapid improvements in R resulting from development, government programs, concerted citizen action, etc.
By concentrating on objectives rather than (problems), it is possible to release the creative powers of people in a region. A clear target is seen. People can see progress, in part, because they know where they are headed. The categories for the objectives are:
1. Community Identity
3. Cultural Development
5. Esthetics and Beautification
6. Landscaping and Vegetation
7. Open Space
9. Organization and Operation
10. The People
13. Security and Justice
14. Recreation and Leisure
18. Civil Defense
19. Industry and Commerce
20. Food and Nutrition
21. Social Services
23. Taxation and Finance
25. Utilities and Energy
One decision aid provided by RRx is the result of a simulation, an analysis of the probable consequence of an action on R. If R were likely to decrease, it would probably be unwise to issue a permit (or even to apply for one), or to continue with a project. If a decrease of, say 100 points in R might occur and no other options were available, it may be that other action by the person or group may increase by substantially more than 100 points the score in a region. Then the net results might make the proposal acceptable. Total regional, long-term, net effect of an action seem to be a suitable basis for operation (Giles 1979) on the condition in a region, the potential for a high quality life, given all legal and similar constraints.
The data requirements are great but no greater than those used or needed at present, and the data are used, not just collected and filed away, nearly impossible to retrieve and rarely used to influence a decision. The data banks can be built and grow; each decision will be better than the last because of the growth.
The primary data flow to models, (e.g., of waste disposal per person per year). As an example, an increase in people resulting from a proposed development automatically changes the numbers in the waste chapter, automatically the cost of a disposal facility in the budget chapter. The other data are numerous. Some appear as tables but they all operate in models (or are omitted because they do not "do anything," are functionless in reaching decisions). In most cases "nice-to-know" is omitted in favor of "need-to-know" but some general text material is provided because of the extreme diversity within the system and the near impossibility of anyone being fully knowledgeable in each area for which a report is prepared.
A primary input and processing category is the computer map produced by an entire geographic information subsystem. These maps have become increasingly well known. Their first uses were as overlays. The computer successively placed a single factor map atop a cumulative set of maps. Progressively, good or bad areas were delineated, i.e., areas having all or most factors. More recent systems include (nearness-to) or (distance from) functions allowing zones around roads for example, to be mapped and these to be added as a map feature. Other improvements include modeling in a map cell or polygon. Given an equation such as
Y= A + BX + CZ3 -DQ0.5
and that X Z and Q are names of factors on maps with real numbers in each cell , then the computer moves to a cell, pulls the values, computes Y, then stores the results and moves to the next cell. A new map is made of all of the computed values of Y. That new map may be of prime sites for Type D industries.
A computer mapping system provides the basis for evaluating a developer's proposal, because it allows new-roads, water lines, school transit, and environmental and visual impacts all to be assessed in the same form.
It is almost impossible to discuss system inputs without discussing processes. The core processes are operations research, mathematical, statistical, and econometric models. The premises or operating policies and concepts are:
To change the state of the region from R to R* may not cost a region anything. People there may continue operation as in their history. A change agent (e.g., a new building, a shopping center) may come or go - the R score will change. Citizens (or landowner) may decide that they want to increase the score. Implicit is the need for optimization. Given 20 proposals by creative citizens or a consultant, which will be best? The results typically are in the form of a modified benefit-to-cost ratio (RR) with (R*-R) /R* being maximized and C being minimized. Part of the concept is that the computation of RR, R*, or R must not cost very much. RRx is conceived as being a large system of staff and computers and is not appropriate for a small group. Because it is a system, it is likely that, once developed, it can be modified in minor ways so that the initial development need not be borne again. Only revisions and managing local data will be needed. The system can be adapted for use elsewhere.
The costs of such a system are invariably less than those of a misplaced highway, a suit involving an endangered animal species, a U. S. Forest Service Plan (average $3 million; O'Toole 1985 page 176), or costs of delays in any large project. Effectiveness is said to be achieving objectives at low cost and high efficiency, and then operating at low cost. People can become every efficient in doing the wrong thing, even evil things. RRx is an effectiveness-oriented system, it works within the region, then makes additional profits by servicing other areas.
A Rural Implication: Zoning
In the rural sector, the agricultural zone is said to be a banking zone. Land is banked there until such time as someone needs it for another use, then it is re-zoned to that use. This cynical view highlights the widespread displeasure with zoning. There are many approaches to controlling or regulating rural land use, but none have worked well. People wait for the next move by a developer, the new highway, or some other challenge to rural land use. Giles and Koeln (1983) advocated analyzing the primeness of farm land, then allowing progressive alternative land use inroads only in sequence, retaining the most prime farmland until the last. This is a subset of zoning, a long-standing practice so entrenched it will be hard to convince anyone of there being a good option.
That discoveries are still on the shelf does not mean that they are not good, as any patent attorney will testify. The history of technology is replete with examples of ideas pulled from the past and used, sometimes in new ways, but not always. One such breakthrough is called dynamic classification. Williamson (1981) completed a Ph.D. dissertation on the topic and several others have advanced the concept (Giles et al. 1993). The concept is grounded in computer mapping. Williamson held that maps should not be made of regions or generalized areas. A mapped region good for displaying conifer forests may not be good for displacing where a certain reptile occurs.
"Ecoregions" are over-generalized maps. When we have (as we do) the capability of mapping animal ranges, specific points with conditions suitable for a species, why should we over-generalize and group all reptiles or all conifer trees? Technology now allows low cost maps to be produced in a timely fashion to meet specific needs. Zoning, using grossly mapped areas of land use types, is over generalizing.
Each map cell (e.g., a land area 10 x 10 meters ... called alpha-units), with so many factors known about it, is probably unique. Given hundreds of factors characterizing each cell, it is possible to ask of such a system: Given the 25 characteristics of my planned factory (or any project), where are the best places to put it? Perhaps the computer might select a place (in a factory or industrial zone) but the place might be suboptimal, slightly better at the edge of another zone, several times better in another zone.
Years ago, there were too many factors, options were fewer, pressures less, space more available. Creating maps of zones was not a bad technique. All of that has changed. Where shall we put the pipeline corridor through the region? Which of the more than 300,000 possible routes will have the lowest ratepayer, environmental, legal, and infrastructure costs? At the farm scale: what is the most profitable crop I can grow this year in all of those fields? At the regional scale, where can we encourage marketing, advertising, printing and warehouse centers for the coming fossil-energy short society? Where does a new goatherd enterprise make sense? Where are farm and heavy-equipment cooperatives likely to be profitable? These are the questions with answers in RRx. When these potentials are realized, then conventional zoning with all of its costly delays, litigation, and community-destroying ill-will becomes outdated.
A proposal is made for the work of RRx: Request permission to put development D at point x, y. Query. Results: No constraints or limits are passed. R will improve 1.36 points. Permission suggested. This query could have been made before a formal request, indicating a future strong potential for permission and preventing developers and others from ever going too far down the planning path only to reach later the high costs of being rejected.
Having sustained development or a sustainable region is an idea with intuitive appeal. It sounds logical, reasonable. When we ask how will we know when we have it, or when we imagine arguing our case in court trying to prove we achieved it, we find the idea may have slipped from our grasp. Suppose we graph a sustained community as in Figure 3. If we look at the line A, the progress of R toward R* over time, we can argue that our system has great stability, no gains, and even though the score is low, we have sustained the system at a constant rate and it never stopped.
Within RRx the issue of sustainability is addressed in several ways. We define what we want. We adopt a long planning period. We continue to slide the planning period 100 years ahead at the end of each year (part of the concept of a dynamic planning system). We accept and expect fluctuation and variation but we continue to move toward R*, then regulate the system as tightly as possible about that (a negative feedback operation). We do not use within the system concepts like "development," "quality of life," "sustainability," or "ecosystem management" for they are intrinsic to the total, dynamic, system operating for humans.
Development, by some definitions, means financial gains but lost quality of life, higher taxes, and lower-wage jobs. Sustained development in a depression or unwise development "at any cost," while achieving that objective, may fail in most other tests. Not yield, not production, not buildings built or land sales . . . but quality of life for citizens subject to a set of reasonable, needed constraints, policies, and laws, is what we need. We need to replace the political slogans and easily-used phrases with our own phrases.
RRx is a system for guiding people toward writing and then achieving their objectives. That local peoples' objectives (only on public land management contracts and efforts) or owners' objectives are the fundamental driving property of the system is easily lost among discussions about data banks, computers, and economic or ecological issues.
The objective is formulated precisely (Giles 1981). Citizen efforts in past objective-setting exercises have been confounded by imprecision and mixing of demand, value, and risk and by rarely, if ever, confronting the prospects of substitutable conditions. These efforts have rarely dealt actively in making the full-scale costs estimates over time. They have rarely been able to voice an opinion about an action in relation to their society over the long run, the change in R in relation to R*.
Citizen or client participation requirements are very great. Exhausting valuation is required and it takes weeks of evening volunteer work. However, once done, this intensive work is not required again for 5 years. Objectives must be somewhat stable. Adjustments may be made in the interim. There are different needed conditions and levels of importance among different populations. Within the system these are unified as sub-populations. The "average person" may not exist. Care to meet the needs of sub-population reduces some conflict while allowing every citizen's needs in some areas to be met.
Citizen inputs about procedures and processes (suggestions) are allowed, but decisions about these are left to the professionals in the region and their full expression of superior state-of-the-field works is encouraged. Of course citizen ideas, questions, and suggestions are welcomed, but an effort has been made herein to tease apart means and ends, the root of past extreme conflicts in land use management and decisions.
Who are the publics, the sub-groups, on public lands? This has been a controversial issue. Perhaps every person should be given access to expressing fully seven dimensions of 300 objectives. It is an interesting idea but impractical and infeasible by many measures, chief of which are time and cash. Citizen sampling is appropriate. It too is costly and representativeness is questioned in every conflict situation. "Representative government" is called for. Elected officials "represent" citizens in providing values. Even this has proven a problem; there is great reluctance to represent the wishes of others. Doing so is a time consuming, very particular activity over a very great range of concepts --however these are the full range required for superior decision making by government officials of a region. (The ignorance of individuals, otherwise hidden, can be exposed.) Often elected officials will appoint commissions or committee (by various names) to do this work. Even among them, there may be reluctance. They have often asked (staff) to assign weights of importance, risk levels, etc. This has resulted in increasing resource agency conflict over the years. Decades ago foresters, for example, were representative. They were rural people among rural people. Now their values are very different from those of a highly urban society. Years ago Kennedy (1970) found little agreement between values of state wildlife biologists and rural folk. The probability of a close match between citizens' objectives and staff objectives seems small. A staff person may argue that he or she is better informed than citizens are. Perhaps, but the point is missed. Needs, wants, importance, willingness to take risks - these are the topics for landowners and citizens, not the technical details of soil erosion rates, tree growth, or toxicity of certain substances. Both are of ultimate importance simultaneously but separately.
These counter-currents are well known in planning. As an example: A solution was made evident in a controversy. Three high level judges presided over an optimum location case. They refused to provide weights that were reflective of citizens' feelings of importance about fairness, equality, or how the proposed project may degrade certain environmental features. Such weights were needed for the analysis. To overcome their reluctance and proceed with the analysis, three analyses were done. This is called a parametric approach. The staff created in a consensus discussion group inputs that they believe that were representative of extremes of attitudes of the public - for example (1) the ultra-protective, long-range viewing people and (2) the exploitative, short-range viewing people. Then a mid-range -- the all-around, reasonable person. These are caricatures (often humorous) but by their use, a type of simulation can be run that allows three results from computer analyses that can be compared by most observers. When the analyses have been conducted, we have found that (1) there is not an equal distance in results between the so-called mid-range people and the extremes. The best efforts to describe the central tendency fail. As observers say the extreme (high or low) was not that far from the good guys. The other observation has been that on large projects (e.g., selecting a utility corridor) there is amazing similarity of location for all groups, perhaps 60 percent of the distance. These differences in citizen values expressed in the objectives cause the route to deviate (to meet these objectives) in certain areas. The results allow discussions and further analyses to be concentrated on these areas of difference rather than on efforts to prevent or block an entire project (already having been decided that it will be implemented, the location being the remaining question.) There is no good place to put any development. There will always be change that results from the development and some change will be viewed by some person as bad. The solution to many land use problems may be formulated as a least-bad or cost minimization problem. Risks can be included in such a formulation as "expected cost" or the product of an expectation-value (i.e., 1.0-risk) and the estimated discounted costs.
All of this work, all of this detailed analysis of human objectives can be dispatched in the blink of a socio-political eye. All people are not equal; one-person, one-vote is not a rule followed in land use planning. Neither cynical nor naive, development in RRx has the potential of computing the will of the people (or an appropriate subgroup or simply the owner of a large tract of land, one of the Ranging Tracts) and computing and presenting how to achieve it. There are many reasons why a project may fail, but these are the same reasons that unaided people will also fail to match their actual condition with their desired and needed condition. Most peoples' objectives are poorly known and the formulation above helps them to be at least as well (perhaps "better") expressed as ever before. Once developed and the power of RRx documents is seen by the public, there will be fewer apparently single-interest, self-serving judgments made by those in authority. The unpopular can be justified; the apparent disclaimed. The system's results can be used to support rational, informed decisions in the public context, those that meet citizens' long term needs.
If there was only a single landowner or chief executive then there would be one "public" and one set of numbers and the system would work to achieve that person's objectives. The design has been to achieve a system for both public and private interests.
RRx is a living system. By that is meant:
Use rates of RRx will be monitored and a decline in use will trigger investigations into causes. Acceptance of RRx results will be monitored and causes for failures identified. Exciting intra-system policy issues are ahead for addressing revisions in the system to increase acceptability of recommendations versus those that improve the technical content but perhaps reduce the acceptance of recommendations.
The system will be judged to be suitable if it is responsive to the dynamics of technology (computers and communications); the land itself; knowledge about the components of the system (gained from experts and research); citizen objectives; and the staff operating the system.
Computer power opens new alternatives to wildland or rural land use planning and alternative means to control use. RRx provides answers to whether a proposed land use (or land related practices) may be approved based on
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above.
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
October 16, 2006