Natural resources a hot topic at sustainable communities certificate course

Michigan’s natural resources – our fields, forests, lakes, streams and wetlands – contribute greatly to a community’s ability to develop without compromising future generations.

How natural resources contribute to sustainable communities is one of the topics at the first-ever Sustainable Communities Certificate Program to be held at Michigan State University, June 7-8, 2012.  Planning and zoning decision makers at this event will learn about eight key topics: introduction to community sustainability, energy, new economy, natural resources, local food, build environment, mobility and community capacity.  Participants will also hear about climate change, green neighborhood certification programs and successes in sustainable planning.

Natural resources are a community’s green infrastructure – forests, wildlife, agriculture and unique habitats.  Much like our gray infrastructure - our roads sewer and water systems – green infrastructure is an inter-connected system.

Green infrastructure provides a community air purification, water recharge, wildlife habitat, food production, recreation and scenic views.  Rural areas depend on green infrastructure for jobs in forestry, agriculture, mining and other industries. Protecting natural resources is also cost effective – for instance, it is much less expensive to depend on native wetlands to absorb storm water than to construct engineered solutions.   

Very significantly, it is our green infrastructure that is responsible for Michigan’s large tourism industry.  Just look at many of the highly-successful Pure Michigan campaign videos and you will see our natural resources highlighted.

The ability of our natural resources to provide benefits to this and future generations is threatened by development patterns that split large parcels into smaller ones that are more difficult to manage (parcelization) and by land-use change that breaks the connectivity that characterizes green infrastructure (fractionalization).

There are some great examples in Michigan where communities are taking steps to recognize the importance of green infrastructure and enhance and protect those resources.  Some of the techniques are regulatory, but most rely on creative ways to engage local leaders and landowners in voluntary approaches.  Some of those examples will be described during the certificate program.

The registration deadline for the two-day Sustainable Communities Certificate Program is Friday, June 1, 2012.

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