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What Is Green Infrastructure?

Bangor Train Depot-Van Buren County
Bangor Train Depot-Van Buren County

Green infrastructure is a connected network of natural areas and other open spaces planned and managed to conserve natural ecosystems and the services they provide.  These lands provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife such as maintaining clean air and water and providing areas for recreation.  Often these natural areas are connected to communities by trails or greenways.  Green infrastructure elements can be in urban, suburban and rural areas and may or may not be open to the public.


Here is a great video to promote green infrastructure for water quality!



1.  Consumption of Natural Lands.  The consumption of our natural lands for development (residential and commercial) has created disconnected communities, fragmented habitats, disruption of natural landscape processes and a degradation of our areas water and air quality.  This has prompted people to take action to ensure the sustainability of natural resources in our region.


 "Just as we must carefully plan for and invest in our capital infrastructure-our roads, bridges and waterlines, we must invest in our environmental or green infrastructure-our forests, wetlands, streams and rivers." Paris Glendening, Governor of Maryland.  


2.  Need for clean water.  All people, plants and animals need water to survive.  By protecting the water sources and water quality of our global, national and regional water supplies, we can ensure that people will be able to live and play on this earth for centuries.


3.  Predictions for the Future.  The graphics attached gives an alarming prediction of development in Michigan if it is not planned and coordinated.  We not only run the risk of developing in a haphazard manner; but, we run the risk of losing our natural landscapes to asphalt, concrete and unplanned development.  Michigan Land Use 1980-2040


Did You Know?  Michigan has:

  • Over 3,200 miles of freshwater coastline - more than any other state in the country
  • Nearly 900 golf courses to enjoy
  • 960,014 registered boats - more than any other state in the nation
  • More than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams
  • In Michigan, you are never more than 6 miles from a lake or stream
  • Stand anywhere in Michigan and you are within 85 miles of a Great Lake
  • 1,300 designated mountain bike and bicycle trails
  • 600 campgrounds
  • More lighthouses than any ocean state - 116 on the shores of the Great Lakes
  • 97 state parks


Common Terminology - Green Infrastructure 


Old Rugged Cross-Cass County [Click here to view full size picture]
Old Rugged Cross-Cass County
Farm in Eau Claire-Berrien County [Click here to view full size picture]
Farm in Eau Claire-Berrien County











What Green Infrastructure is not? 

Green Infrastructure can mean different things to different people.  Below is a short list of elements of this initiative to help us know what is NOT a part of Green Infrastructure.


  1. A program - GI is a philosophy or organizational strategy that provides a framework for planning conservation and development.


  1. A panacea - GI cannot be everything to everyone.  Like any planning effort, green infrastructure requires tradeoffs among priorities to be made.


  1. A short-term solution - Planning, design, and management of GI require a long-term commitment.


  1. An isolated effort - GI requires the coordination of many people.


  1. A government program - Although often led by state, regional, or local government, GI relies on all sectors of the community, including private landowners.


  1. Smart growth, no growth, or antidevelopment - Used in conjunction with other planning processes, GI may be used to guide the pattern of growth, but it does not dictate whether growth will occur.  Unlike other conservation approaches, GI provides for development and other changes in land use.


  1. Elitist - All people within a community or region benefit from GI planning and implementation.


  1. A system of greenways - Greenways may be an important component of GI, but GI has broader ecological goals.


  1. Schoolyards, playgrounds, or other parcels of green space -These may be part of a GI initiative, but they may not share the ecological or environmental goals of GI.


Source: Mark A. Benedict and Edward T. McMahon.  Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities (2006).  The Conservation Fund: Island Press.

This page last updated on 8/24/2015.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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