Ecosystem Services and Green Infrastructure
One of The Urban Greenspaces Institute's primary policy activities is advocating for recognition that streams, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, parks, trails and greenspaces contribute to the ecological, social and economic health of the city and the region.
The Institute is working with the city of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services to conduct research and collect information regarding the economic contributions of green infrastructure to the city of Portland.
Green Infrastructure is the city and region's alternative infrastructure. It protects the water quality of our streams, rivers and drinking water supplies. It supports the region's diversity of plants and animals, protects air quality, and contributes to the health and quality of life for the region's citizens.
All of these services, sometimes referred to as ecosystem services or natural capital, contribute to the region's economy by increasing property values, avoiding costly environmental clean-ups, and providing services at no cost to the public.
Why Green Infrastructure?
The Urban Greenspaces Institute is dedicated to promoting the concept of green infrastructure to decision-makers, designers and the general public. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized the important work the city of Portland has pioneered in the field of using green infrastructure in its innovative stormwater management program. The EPA defines green infrastructure as, "Green infrastructure is an approach that communities can choose to maintain healthy waters, provide multiple environmental benefits and support sustainable communities. Unlike single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure, which uses pipes to dispose of rainwater, green infrastructure uses vegetation and soil to manage rainwater where it falls. By weaving natural processes into the built environment, green infrastructure provides not only stormwater management, but also flood mitigation, air quality management, and much more."
The Urban Greenspaces Institute advocates for public policies that ensure that the region puts the same resources into protecting and expanding our green infrastructure as the region's gray infrastructure of roads, sewers, drinking water and other urban services.
While he was still commissioner in charge of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services and before he was elected mayor, Sam Adams committed the city to spend $55 million through the city's Grey to Green Initiative to improve the city's green infrastructure with tree plantings, innovative stormwater projects, ecoroofs, culvert replacements and other watershed health initiatives. (See Grey to Green brochure: "Going Green for Clean Rivers."). One of the Institute's top priorities is to ensure that the city continues to fund BES's green infrastructure programs.