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: www.gicinc.org/book.htm.