Editor: A vibrant economy, public health, and quality of life are dependent on strong green infrastructure—our beautiful network of forests, meadows, wetlands, streams and mountainsides. Due to the finite, fragile nature of these natural assets, it is imperative that strategies for their conservation be woven into each element of our forthcoming comprehensive plan, from land use to housing, transportation and other policy areas.
Recognizing the value of our natural assets, Loudoun was, in 2001, one of the first localities in the U.S. to adopt a comprehensive land use plan that featured green infrastructure as a key element. Now the plan is being rewritten to guide land use through 2040 and beyond, presenting an opportunity to prioritize our green infrastructure as a keystone for a sustainable, resilient community.
Loudoun’s green infrastructure is hard at work, filtering our air and water, soaking up stormwater from roadways and rooftops, buffering us from drought, and keeping us cooler. All at no cost. Unfortunately, our green infrastructure is in danger of being further compromised by residential and other development, unless the forthcoming comprehensive plan prioritizes our limited natural assets, including slopes, rare geological and environmental characteristics, and wetlands.
While the new draft plan sounds nice, strategies for resiliency are missing. Patterns of increasingly worse weather combined with a growing population can magnify damages for which we must prepare. For example, a 2013 study on drought preparedness through local land use planning examined the fastest growing counties in the country. Loudoun scored just 9.3 on a scale of 1-30. With the anticipated volume of new residential and other development, we cannot afford to forgo resiliency planning that will help us recover from natural and man-made disasters. A final plan that delivers specific, measurable policies with timelines for achievement will help ensure our resilience and sustainability.
We need a plan that befits our fortunate, educated, high tech, 21st century community. A plan that looks ahead to the future and sets out steps to preserve our natural assets as we grow, so that Loudoun continues to be a great place to live, work and play.
Cheri Conca, Conservation Advocacy Chair
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy