AWRI Identifies Critical "Green Infrastructure"
The AWRI and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM) have been working as partners for many years. In recent months, AWRI and LCWM joined other stakeholders in an unprecedented effort to identify high quality natural areas throughout west Michigan. Such areas are often referred to as "Green Infrastructure". The term is intended to emphasize that our natural landscape is just as critical to our economy and our culture as our streets, sewers, and other hardscape features that we accept as part of our urban world (the so-called "gray infrastructure"). The LCWM received a Peoples and Lands (PAL) grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop and implement a West Michigan Green Infrastructure Strategy. AWRI's role in this process was to create a series of map products that identified areas of greenspace already preserved by public ownership, areas of biodiversity as identified by The Nature Conservancy, land use and cover characteristics, existing and proposed trails, major utilities and railroad corridors, and other background information critical to the analysis of our natural resources in Allegan, Kent, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Ottawa counties. This information was combined and a series of three planning Charettes organized to solicit further opinions from local experts regarding the need to preserve high priority natural areas and the linkages between them. The results from each Charette were summarized in a comprehensive Green Infrastructure Strategy, and a composite map was prepared by the staff in the Information Services Center at AWRI for use by regional planners and other local decision-makers. This is the first time a map of this kind has ever been produced for the west Michigan community and it establishes a baseline regarding the location of our most critical habitats and high priority sensitive environments. While this project is complete, the job to preserve and actually secure these highly prized landscapes has only just begun. You can expect to hear and see more about this issue as we all contemplate ways in which to sustain and improve our quality of life in west Michigan.