Oakland County's environmentally-minded, regional approach to identifying and protecting its natural resources has earned it the love of the Conservation Fund, which is declaring Oakland a leader in protecting land, water, and other natural resources.
The Conservation Fund's National Green Infrastructure Implementation Award will be handed out to Oakland County officials Feb. 24th during the three-day National Green Infrastructure Conference in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Officials from Arkansas and Maryland were also named in the top three of green infrastructure planners in the nation. Read more here about the awards
Green infrastructure is a strategically planned and managed network of natural areas and open spaces, according to the Conservation Fund. It says that planning for those open spaces -- woodlands, wetlands, trails and parks -- conserves ecosystems, protects the air and water and benefits people and wildlife.
The award specifically recognizes Oakland County's Green Infrastructure Vision, which involved every community across the 900-square-mile county in a project to map out land, water, green space, trails and such -- all environmental resources -- and show how they connect.
The map, both printed and online, is part marketing tool in that it explains the richness of natural resources, and part development tool that helps local governments and private parties identify conservation areas as they look to develop or seek grants for environmental preservation or building efforts, says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor in Oakland County's Office of Planning and Economic Development.
"I think what it really does is validate for us using that local knowledge of the communities to build a much larger vision," says Rasegan. "We could not have done it sitting in the office…That local knowledge was indispensable to piecing this thing together."
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson also spoke to the
validation of hard work completed by many, many people.
"Preserving green space adds to the quality of life of our residents,
but it is one facet of a larger green initiative. We also are attracting
alternative energy companies to provide green jobs; identifying and
incorporating energy conserving devices and strategies here on our
government campus; and we are building the nation's first green airport
terminal," Patterson says in a statement announcing the award.
The Green Initiative had already won accolades from the National Association of Counties, and, as Patterson says, is one of several eco-conscious programs implemented in Oakland County.
They include Oakland County Airport, the first green airport terminal in the country. Renovations at the airport are expected to be completed this summer and incorporate wind and solar power and geothermal energy as energy savers.
The county has also formed a Green Team to find energy savings at county government facilities, saving $4 million since 2005. In addition, the county issued an OakGreen challenge, asking residents, businesses and governments to decrease energy consumption by 10 percent by 2012. The county's goal for itself is 15 percent by 2015. In addition, it is instituting programs to foster the growth of alternative energy companies.
The Conservation Fund
board that chose the winners looked for places that had set conservation goals and achieved them.
"These three projects stood out not only because they were able to accomplish real, on-the-ground solutions to their conservation priorities, but also because they are ahead of the national trend in which more and more communities are turning to green infrastructure planning to effectively address natural resource use," Kris Hoellen, director of The Conservation Fund's Conservation Leadership Network, says in a statement.Sources: Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor in Oakland County's Office of Planning and Economic Development and Bill Mullan, Oakland County Director of Communications
Writer: Kim North Shine