Regional Councils are critical to the green infrastructure movement because of their comprehensive multifaceted capabilities. Regional Councils can help continue green infrastructure initiatives on the regional level by convening stakeholders, conducting strategic planning, and implementing projects to accomplish sustainable outcomes.
Regional Councils have a broad role to play in green infrastructure through:
- Regional planning processes for a variety of programs: transportation, water quality, housing and economic development;
- Ability to collect and synthesize complex layers of green data
- Ability to bring local government, business and civic groups together to address broad, regional issues;
- Leadership ability in sustaining support for an issue
- Ability to make the urban-suburban-rural connection on issues of sustainability;
- Able to work in areas that focus on sustainable communities, economic vitality, healthy lands and waters.
Regional councils provide comprehensive planning and technical expertise, on a multi-jurisdictional level for their member cities and counties, in areas such as transportation, community and economic development, hazard mitigation, and the environment. Regional Councils work hard to improve the quality of life for local communities through the management and planning of sewers, water resources, housing, roads, natural resources, conservation areas, and recreation facilities. Many of these planning efforts are tied directly to air quality and transportation programs as well as natural resource inventories that are often integrated into a comprehensive land use program for the entire region.
Regional Councils play a large role at the local level, in convening stakeholders on a multi-jurisdictional scale to work on strategic conservation of natural resources, otherwise known as land care. By bringing together community groups, farmers, developers, local elected officials, and planners, regional councils can create consensus on the most effective green infrastructure/land care strategies. Specifically, regional councils can help form discussion groups within a region on a variety of topics. These discussion groups include partner agencies with working experience on issues such as conservation, restoration, development, public works, and farming. These discussions would identify critical opportunities for conservation, restoration, and preservation and create locally driven opportunities in order to start working towards implementation.
Regional Councils also have the technical capabilities to develop detailed environmental data and mapping, which can serve as the basis for creating community and government driven projects to protect natural lands in the face of imposing development and growth trends. Regional Councils collect and unify local data and use geographic information systems software in order to create a more comprehensive inventory and map of environmental assets in the region. Some RCs will focus their efforts directly on layers of natural inventory, such as woodlands, wetlands, and watersheds. Other Councils may focus indirectly on environmental assets in relation to the built environment and development trends such as transportation, housing, and employment. This data in turn will visually and numerically expose the most critical environmental areas that are needed for conservation and restoration, and will help to direct elected officials and businesses to make more sustainable development decisions.