New York State releases Green Infrastructure Planning Guide



A Practitioner’s Guide

In June 2013, the Green  Infrastructure Center Inc. (GIC) and the New York State Department of  Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a New York edition of a green  infrastructure planning guide that will help communities protect and restore  vital green infrastructure that can help mitigate flooding, while at the same  time performing critical life sustaining functions like cleaning the air and  water.  Based on GIC’s six years of field testing and a case study  conducted in Ulster County, New York, the guide shows communities how to map  their most significant natural resources and make plans to conserve or restore  them.

Naturally occurring green  infrastructure is a valuable protection during flooding events and to mitigate  storm water runoff.  The trees and other vegetation in these natural  systems provide a host of additional environmental, social and economic  benefits including filtering pollutants from the air, water, and soil;  moderating temperatures and reducing energy use; providing wildlife habitat;  storing carbon; providing food, wood and other natural resources; increasing  property values; providing recreational opportunities and improving quality of  life.

The guide, “Evaluating and Conserving  Green Infrastructure Across the Landscape: A Practitioner’s Guide,” details  how to catalogue a community’s natural, green infrastructure assets and how to  evaluate the different natural assets and to prioritize them for long-term  stewardship.

“While most people  prefer to make land-use decisions that restore the 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 – so should we plan to conserve natural resources as our green infrastructure”,  GIC’s Director Karen Firehock said.

“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 resources. In already developed areas,  resources can be restored and revitalized.”

“DEC worked collaboratively  with GIC and EPA to support the creation of this guide that provides New York’s  counties with comprehensive information about its natural resources to  strategically plan for maximum social, economic and environmental  benefits,”  said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.

“As the Cuomo  Administration strives to develop more resilient critical infrastructure  systems through the Governor’s NYS2100 Commission, this guide will help local  officials capitalize on the concepts of the Commission. County by county, this  is a blueprint for statewide sustainability.”

Naturally occurring green  infrastructure 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.

Recent events such as Storm  Sandy and Hurricane Irene have made New Yorkers more aware of the need to  identify hazard areas and to conserve areas subject to flooding or  erosion.  The guide not only helps planners create maps to better prepare  their localities for future hazards but also helps with long-term planning to  conserve their best resources, such as key agricultural soils and sensitive  watersheds.

The Practitioner’s Guide  provides practical steps for creating green infrastructure maps and plans for a  community. It draws from field tests GIC conducted over the past six years to  learn how to evaluate and conserve natural resources. To test the applications  for New York, a pilot study was conducted in Ulster County.

“Ulster County has  remarkable natural resources that our residents and visitors enjoy,” said  Amanda LaValle, coordinator for the Ulster County Department of the  Environment.  “However, these resources are not just of local significance  but are also critical to the region. Agricultural lands in Ulster County  provide fresh, local produce to the region and our pristine streams and forests  of the county provide clean drinking water for both Ulster residents and the  region.”

DEC provided much of the data  enabling the mapping and analysis of natural resources.  All of the data  that has been compiled and mapped can be analyzed in any combination of ways to  better inform and support various DEC programs as well, including stormwater  and flood management, water and air quality issues, locating waste disposal  sites and open space and wildlife protection.


To Learn More:

To order a printed copy of  the entire guide, visit the Green Infrastructure Center website at: