Ian McHarg’s Ecological Planning in The Woodlands, Texas: Lessons Learned after Four Decades

Bo Yang, Ming Han Li, Chang Shan Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Woodlands, Texas, is well known as a new town development (29,000 acres) that followed Ian McHarg’s ecological planning approach. Primarily by literature review, this paper indicated that early development that followed McHarg’s approach has met the original planning goals to preserve the forest environment and to minimize the development impacts on watershed hydrology. McHarg’s approach was largely abandoned after the ownership change in 1997. Barriers came from each side of the development: homeowner (demand), developer (provider), designer (professional service) and government (policy-maker). The Woodlands’ environmental planning success in early development was also attributed to developer George Mitchell’s personal commitment and financial support, the US Housing and Urban Development’s $50 million loan, and the relatively flexible planning system in the 1970s. However, in the current planning and economic systems, it would be a hard undertaking to replicate McHarg’s ecological planning approach at this scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-794
Number of pages22
JournalLandscape Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 3 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • community planning
  • ecosystem services
  • flood mitigation
  • landscape performance
  • public acceptance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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