Rustic Barn - Courtesy of Ann Teliczan - www.michigansweetspot.com
About Green Infrastructure
Provide collaborative leadership in regional efforts that preserve, protect and restore urban and rural natural features and resources that make up West Michigan’s Green Infrastructure network.
Encourage regional collaboration and translate best practices in green infrastructure planning to decision-makers and communities, creating, enhancing and protecting a sustainable green infrastructure network throughout West Michigan.
In 2003, the Green Infrastructure Task Force (GITF) was convened to address WMSA’s priority to “Ensure a sustainable environment”. Their charge was to “construct a 25-year vision for permanent protection of open space in West Michigan”. Members of the GITF worked for 10 months holding local listening sessions, engaging the Governor’s Land Use Leadership Council and constructing the Natural Connections Map, which illustrates a “first cut” at identifying our region’s green infrastructure network of forests, wetlands, farmland, trails, greenways, rivers, lakes, shoreline and protected land.
In November 2003, the summary report, entitled West Michigan Green Infrastructure Strategy, was published.
Six regional priorities were presented to guide the region’s Green Infrastructure Project focus:
- Protect critical areas of biodiversity
- Protect shoreline and dune ecosystems
- Implement watershed management and planning
- Promote regional farmland preservation
- Developing a regional trails and greenways network
- Integrate green infrastructure into developed and urban settings
The Green Infrastructure Framework:
We used the "green infrastructure" framework developed by The Conservation Fund as a way of structuring our approach to this complex issue. Central to this framework is the idea that the region’s green infrastructure is not a luxury or an amenity - it is a critical component of our community that needs to be planned for, invested in, and maintained with the same level of priority and urgency as the "gray" infrastructure of our roads, bridges, buildings and utilities.
Green Infrastructure Leadership
The Green Infrastructure Project is managed by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance and Green Infrastructure Leadership Council (GILC). The GILC is an advisory council for the Green Infrastructure Initiative, represented by West Michigan leaders in local government, business and conservation. The GILC is coordinating outreach strategies designed to impact local land use planning.
Green Infrastructure Leadership Council Goals
- Concentrate measurable effort on the six Green Infrastructure focus areas:
- Integrate the regional vision into local planning efforts and other regional initiatives
- Serve as a neutral and informative regional hub for collaboration and information-sharing on green infrastructure issues.
- Build a regional information and analysis capability
- Create a regional policy and funding framework
Like the Alliance, the Green Infrastructure Project’s geographic focus area includes eight counties: Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa. A recent study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute confirmed that the majority of the region’s economic activities are completed within the 8-county designation, which further affirms the importance of the Green Infrastructure Initiative.
Memorandums of understanding with key regional connectors
- The region’s three Metropolitan Planning Organizations as a means to access local governmental units
- Land Conservancy of West Michigan to contact private land owners
- Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute to develop a means of evaluating the intrinsic values of our natural assets
- Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institute to provide intellectual capital and analysis capabilities so that we may better target social, economic and ecological parameters affecting or causing change.