Table of Contents | Executive Summary


The strength, prosperity, and vitality of our communities is a fundamental measure of our nation's success. As part of its effort to create a national action strategy, the President's Council on Sustainable Development established the Sustainable Communities Task Force to examine and articulate the leadership role communities are playing in creating a sustainable United States. The ten Council members on the task force were charged with developing consensus-based policy recommendations on how the United States can create opportunities, reduce barriers, and encourage collaborative partnerships to implement sustainable development locally.

The work of the task force began with a simple theory: local communities are providing much of the initial impetus and practical leadership for implementing the concepts of sustainable development. Any national strategy for sustainable development must tap into this energy and momentum and be rooted in the lessons learned from these communities. Accordingly, task force members sought input from community activists, business leaders, trade unionists, developers, academics, architects, policy experts, and elected officials and agency staff at all levels of government. In addition, through a series of meetings, briefings, and roundtables, the task force solicited the expertise and involvement of hundreds of additional community leaders throughout the country.

Many of these community leaders participated in the six working groups established by the task force as well as sharing their knowledge on innovative programs and policies that are already underway and achieving measurable results. The working groups addressed a wide range of issues relevant to building sustainable communities, including economic development and jobs, social infrastructure, environmental justice, transportation and infrastructure, housing and land use, financing, and public participation. The working groups provided the foundation for the task force's work. In a bottom-up process, materials developed by working groups were integrated into task force draft issue statements, goals, and policy recommendations.

To further ensure that the task force's work was rooted in the realities facing communities today, the task force worked with communities to draft case studies, and asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Urban and Economic Development Division to commission a compilation of 51 community profiles. The case studies and community profiles are not intended to serve as models, but rather to highlight the diversity of initiatives already underway, and to share lessons learned by communities that are developing integrated approaches to social, economic, and environmental issues while emphasizing opportunities for broad public participation.

It is with immense gratitude that we recognize and thank the hundreds of individuals who contributed to the Sustainable Communities Task Force.

This final report reflects the synthesis of three years of work, and it represents the consensus of council members who served on the task force. While the task force's goals were ambitious, its recommendations only begin to deal with the wide range of challenges facing our nation's communities. But by addressing the most important issues the task force identified, we hope this report will stimulate a national discussion on how the concepts of sustainable development can be applied in local decisionmaking to make all of our communities better places in which to live.

Thomas R. Donahue
Task Force Co-chair
Former President