Houston-Galveston Area Council: The Regional Conservation Framework
I’d like to let you in on a little secret. The Houston-Galveston region is an ecological wonderland! I know that might not be the image that first comes to mind, but our region sits at the junction of southern pine forests, prairies, and coastal wetlands. We have 16,000 miles of bayous, rivers and coastline. These vibrant ecosystems provide habitat for diverse fish and wildlife species and boast some of the best birding sites in the world.
Yet we face serious challenges in preserving these crucial resources in the face of anticipated population growth. We’re forecasting the region will add more than four million people and 120 square miles of new development over the next 25 years. There are many outstanding conservation programs underway in the region, largely led by non-profit organizations and supported by state and federal agencies, but there are opportunities for our local governments to play an even larger role. That’s why the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) developed the Regional Conservation Framework with high-level strategies to help the region’s local governments coordinate and magnify their conservation efforts.
This first-of-its-kind project was based on extensive listening sessions with local elected officials conducted throughout H-GAC’s 13-county region. The resulting framework lays out a high-level vision for meaningful conservation in the region, impactful strategies and attainable action steps. As part of the project, H-GAC established extensive on-line resources including a useful grants library, searchable by funding sources, eligible uses, and land types, proven best practices and case studies, and a helpful conservation mapping tool.
The framework was funded by a grant from a local foundation who recently awarded H-GAC a generous follow-up grant to begin the Regional Conservation Initiative-an effort to kick-start implementation of the framework. Key elements to a successful project will be to work directly with local governments, in partnership with non-governmental and private organizations, to develop multi-jurisdictional partnerships and secure funding for local and regional conservation projects. Another key element of the initiative will be the development of public awareness tools and information resources for local governments to help build public support for conservation efforts in their communities. H-GAC will also provide data on the quantifiable value of conserved forests, wetlands, and other open spaces for residents of the region.
The Regional Conservation Framework and related resources are available at h-gac.com/regional-conservation. For questions about this project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog written and submitted by:
Jeff Taebel, FAICP
Director, Community and Environmental Planning
Houston-Galveston Area Council