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Harris County
Gulf-Houston Region Targets 24% in Nature-based Infrastructure by 2040
News Release
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Houston - The 8-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (Gulf-Houston RCP) comprised of over 100 governmental, environmental, academic and business groups with a diverse steering committee (see member list below) announce the public launch of the Gulf-Houston RCP’s 24% by 2040 Nature-Based Infrastructure Strategya collaboration to improve the quality of life in our 8-county region through increases in protected/preserved land-use in Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery & Waller counties.  

How much preserved/protected Nature-Based Infrastructure (NBI) does the 8-county region have now? A mere 9.2 percent of the 4.8 million acres of land that make up the Gulf-Houston region are protected areas that have been set aside to detain floodwater, provide recreation for people and habitat for wildlife, maintain native vegetation for erosion control and preserve flood-mitigating natural waterways. Meanwhile, over 26% of the 4.8 million acres is currently developed in some capacity – residential, commercial or gray-based infrastructure. That leaves roughly 65% of our 8-county region for necessary increased combinations of nature-based infrastructure and population growth and economic development. If existing NBI plans and projects receive needed funding in our region, before and after Hurricane Harvey, the 8-county region could achieve 24% in nature-based infrastructure by 2040, when regional populations are projected to reach over 9 million.

How do we achieve 24% in preserved/protected NBI by 2040? Over the last four years, the Gulf-Houston region has accelerated and expanded large-scale plans and market-based projects for community resilience. Most of these projects fall into four key areas– riparian corridors, prairies and forests, coastal bays & estuaries or oyster reefs & islands. If these targeted projects, and more recent storm-resilience projects are funded, 24% of preserved/protected land could be achieved allowing for larger tracts of riparian corridors protected, additional prairie and forest lands acquired and preserved, and wetlands restored and enhanced for coastal protection“Whether it’s to aid in flood prevention, coastal erosion & sea level rise in Galveston Bay, enhancement of prairie preserves or recreational use, all regional nature-based infrastructure requires both long-term maintenance and a sufficient amount of preserved land to allow for adequate regional protection and resilience,” explained Dr. Loren Raun, Rice University Faculty.

Over the last four years, over $180 million in land acquisition and other NBI projects around the 8-counties have been funded, and Harvey-based funds will add significantly to NBI increases. Deborah January-Bevers, President of Houston Wilderness noted that “local cost-share funding coupled with state and federal funds will allow our region to reach 24% in Nature-Based Infrastructure by 2040 or earlier.” The remaining 14.8% needed to reach 24% can be achieved in 3 targeted project areas: (1) 6% from the “shovel-ready” NBI projects shown in the Gulf-Houston RCP’s Working-List of Projects (see interactive project map at www.gulfhoustonrcp.org); (2) 6% from public and private NBI projects outlined in various county, city, regional plans, and (3) 2.8% from wetland mitigation projects and future planned communities.

“Hurricane Harvey brought home the need to do things differently in our region,” remarked Jill Boullion, Executive Director, Bayou Land Conservancy. “This achievable goal of 24% in nature-based land use, including protection of sensitive flood plains, will allow us to grow our economy and provide a high quality-of-life for the millions more that will make the Houston region home over the next 20+ years.”





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