Encouraging the use of trees and natural areas in municipal Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects

At the recent International Low Impact Development Conference held in Houston, TX on January 19-21, 2015(http://content.asce.org/conferences/lid15/), research was presented by Carli Flynn (http://carliflynn.com/research/), a doctoral student from Syracuse University, showing that in the United States we are still in the early implementation stages regarding Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI).  She surveyed all municipalities in the United States greater than a certain population size.  She suggested that if we graph the number of cities embracing and implementing GSI over time it would look like a bell-shaped curve.  She then divided that curve into five segments to represent five different stages of GSI adoption: Pioneers, Opinion Leaders, Early adopters, Late adopters, and Laggards.  By her estimations, we are approaching the end of the pioneering section and entering the opinion leaders part of the curve.  She also suggested that the key components for municipalities to implement GSI include leadership, collaboration, and education.

The U&CF State Coordinators in the Southeast are uniquely positioned to provide education about trees as GSI is still in its infancy.  Steps to encourage the use of trees and forests in GSI systems that the Coordinators may consider include:

  • Develop relationships with engineering firms that offer GSI design services
    • to learn the language that design engineers use
    • to understand the barriers they face to using trees in their designs
    • to provide education (tree physiology, anatomy, benefits, etc.)
  • Identify and meet with state chapters of the water works/stormwater society
    • consider presenting at their annual meeting about the benefits of trees regarding stormwater
    • to develop networks of stormwater managers and design engineers
  • Meet with your state environmental protection department
    • to discuss the GSI/LID program at the state level
    • to better understand stormwater requirements for the state
    • to understand the barriers to using trees as GSI Best Management Practices (BMPs)
  • Develop relationships with municipal or regional stormwater boards
    • to understand their needs, requirements, and concerns regarding the use of trees as GSI BMPs
  • Emphasize to these groups
    • the co-benefits of urban trees and the urban forest
      • how trees satisfy the “Triple Bottom Line” (Environmental, Economic, Health)
    • the benefits of riparian buffer conservation, forests, and undisturbed soils to water quality

New Changing Roles Materials Available

Module-5-smallThe Changing Roles Professional Development Program provides state and federal natural resource agencies and partner organizations with a set of flexible resources to conduct their own training programs, aimed toward building skills and tools to successfully tackle WUI issues. Materials include trainer’s guides, exercises, fact sheets, case studies, DVDs, and presentations. The original four module topics include: (1) Wildland-Urban Interface Issues and Connections; (2) Managing Interface Forests; (3) Land-Use Planning and Policy; (4) Communicating with Interface Residents and Leaders.
We recently added a fifth module that addresses a range of emerging issues in the wildland-urban interface and strategies for addressing them, including topics such as climate change, firewood movement, interface entrepreneurs, succession planning, ecosystem services, environmental justice, partnerships, and the benefits of outdoor activity for children.  A few of the materials in this module are still in development, so check back later for more. To view these new module materials click here.