There are currently dozens of policies, funding, and technical assistance programs at the federal level designed to support the implementation of green infrastructure or its components. While this level of interest and support for using natural systems to address environmental, social, and economic goals is important, the multitude of opportunities can make it difficult, if not overwhelming, for communities to piece together effective green infrastructure implementation and financing strategies.
The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland (EFC), with support from the US Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, spent the past year examining the numerous federal green infrastructure programs available to see if there are ways to improve their efficiency, address gaps, and accelerate additional public and private sector investment in this approach. To do this, the EFC spoke with federal personnel, stakeholder organizations, and community-level practitioners to get a sense of how well the existing level of support is meeting needs.
Because green infrastructure can yield a number of benefits, the reason communities turn to this approach is varied. Water quality and land conservation were found to be the most common drivers behind local green infrastructure efforts; however, few program staff, stakeholder groups, or community representatives were looking at these motivations in concert. Yet, because of its holistic nature, a green infrastructure network functions at its highest level when the full collection of practices and activities are considered in their entirety.
Green infrastructure has the potential to serve as a “great integrator” – across community goals, jurisdictional boundaries, and landscape needs – and currently this capacity is not being fully realized. Issues of coordination, financing, and cohesion are impeding the development of a wider-scale green infrastructure network that responds to a variety of drivers, functions on multiple scales, addresses otherwise competing community priorities related to natural resources and local economies.