The Green Solution to America’s #1 Conservation Challenge

America’s number one land preservation problem is the accelerated consumption or conversion of open areas, and the public is well aware of this. According to a February 2000 poll conducted by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, suburban Americans across the country now consider sprawl and traffic to be as bad as crime and violence, while in metropolitan areas sprawl was judged superior.

Conversion of natural areas and working lands has resulted in more habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss, wildlife populations decline, natural landscape processes disruption, carbon storage impairment, and air and water resource degradation. It has also had a variety of social effects, including the withdrawal of important ecosystem services provided by natural systems, an increase in public and private expenditures on providing services.

In order to address these issues, national, state, and local governments have established a variety of uncoordinated voluntary, market-based, and regulatory approaches to resource preservation, species protection, facility siting, air and water quality management, and land management. Local jurisdictions have implemented comprehensive plans. Communities have approved bond referendums and invested heavily.

Although current methods can be used to document several accomplishments in protecting natural environments and processes, improving environmental quality and providing transportation and other community services, important aims remain unfulfilled. We may only infer that this mosaic of well-intentioned plans and regulatory techniques alone is insufficient to halt species decline, natural resources loss, and ecosystem functioning deterioration.

Rather than relying on the current organization of land uses, a new approach is required. This requires innovation in our approaches to conservation and development. The old way of doing things that won’t work in the future must be replaced with more innovative ideas that will allow us to achieve long-term sustainable goals with both protection and development in mind. The creation and maintenance of environmentally beneficial, equitably distributed green infrastructure networks – such as those mentioned above – is an important factor in ensuring clean air, abundant clean water, and healthy landscapes for all people now and in the future. Green Infrastructure gives communities a means to preserve the environment while also improving their quality of life.