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New Green Infrastructure Planning Guide Supports Resilient Communities

Contact: Karen Firehock

Embargoed for Release: April 11, 2013

April 11, 2013: The Green Infrastructure Center Inc. (GIC) has released its new planning guide "Evaluating and Conserving Green Infrastructure Across the Landscape: A Practitioner's Guide." Based on six years of field testing from the Delmarva and coastal plain to the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley, the guide shows communities how to map their most significant natural resources and to make plans to conserve or restore them.

Green infrastructure can be thought of as the sum of all our natural resources. It includes all the interconnected natural systems in a landscape, such as intact forests, woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers, as well as those agricultural soils that provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat and food.

This guide provides practical steps for creating green infrastructure maps and plans for a community. It draws from twelve field tests GIC has conducted over the past six years to learn how to evaluate and conserve natural resources. These field tests were conducted in a diversity of ecological and political conditions, at multiple scales, and in varied development patterns – from wildlands and rural areas to suburbs, cities and towns.

According to GIC Director Karen Firehock, “This is not a guide about how to stop development or to limit population growth. Rather, it describes the steps a community can take to determine what is important and to develop a rationale for what to protect. Development can then occur in a manner that recognizes and protects the area’s most important landscape resources." Firehock added that "If we don't know where our best watershed areas are or our best quality agricultural soils are located and if we don't include this information when we do comprehensive plans, master plans or rezoning, we risk losing resources we don't even know we have!"

Unfortunately, some communities have mapped their best agricultural soils after decisions had already been made to develop the best agricultural land and place agriculture in areas where soils was poor for farming uses. But this does not have to be the case when good data is utilized for decision making.

The Practitioner's guide presents a way to think about and catalogue a community’s natural assets as its ‘green infrastructure.’ It shows how to evaluate the different natural assets and to prioritize them for long-term stewardship. This guide provides the steps for determining how to facilitate development in ways that reduce its impact on the landscape, or to restore environmental functionality where it has been lost. Its application can benefit residents, businesses and government. It provides the steps to utilize free state models to develop maps that can inform planners, builders, community groups and agencies in making the best decisions for where and how to develop as well as what to conserve. It also helps communities to avoid development that may increase safety risks and helps them plan for resilience -- this is especially important for avoiding impacts from future climate change.

Firehock explained that "While most people would prefer to make land-use decisions that restore rather than deplete our environment, land planners and decision makers may still overlook key natural resources. Just as we plan for our gray infrastructure – roads, bridges, power lines, pipelines, sewer systems, and so on – so should we plan to conserve landscapes and natural resources as our ‘green infrastructure.’ "

To order a copy of the guide, and learn how together we can connect, conserve and restore Virginia's natural heritage, send a check for $29.95 made payable to the Green Infrastructure Center.

To receive a free press copy: email: firehock@gicinc.org

Founded in 2006, the Green Infrastructure Center Inc. is a nonprofit organization located in Charlottesville, Virginia that assists communities in developing strategies for protecting and conserving their ecological and cultural assets.  The Green Infrastructure Center team is made up of staff from the GIC and E2 Inc., which provides mapping analysis. The center has completed six projects in Virginia and two are now underway. The center is supported entirely through grants and donations. This project has been provided to Accomack County on by GIC and its funders on a pro-bono basis meaning that all services have been donated to the county. The Virginia Coastal Zone Program  contributed resources to support the participation of county staff.

Green Infrastructure Center,
320 Valley Street, Scottsville, VA, 24590-4996.

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Contact Information:

Karen Firehock, Executive Director