In Southeast Michigan, green infrastructure includes two broad categories. The first encompasses the natural, undisturbed environment such as wetlands, trees, prairies, lakes, rivers, and streams. The second category includes constructed or built green infrastructure such as rain gardens, bioswales, community gardens, and agricultural lands. SEMCOG recently completed the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan. The vision, for the first time:

  • Benchmarks green infrastructure in Southeast Michigan,
  • Visions where we want to go, and
  • Contains regional policies on how to get there.

The Winter 2014 issue of Semscope is also dedicated to Green Infrastructure.

Natural Green Infrastructure

Parks and Conservation Land
With over 180,000 acres of public parks, SEMCOG facilitates meetings of the region’s parks and recreation providers to discuss coordination activities.

Tree Canopy
Tree canopy provides environmental, social, and economic benefits to individual communities and the region.

Natural Resources Protection Ordinances
Natural areas that can be protected through ordinances include wetlands, woodlands, riparian buffers, and native landscaping.

Constructed Green Infrastructure

Rain gardens, bioswales, porous pavement, and other techniques used to manage stormwater runoff. They are also commonly referred to as low impact development techniques and can provide other numerous benefits. These practices are a key component of green infrastructure.

Integrating green infrastructure or low impact development techniques along transportation corridors is very challenging. SEMCOG has partnered with MDOT on a variety of projects to evaluate these opportunities from both planning and implementation perspectives.

Agricultural lands
Southeast Michigan has over 400,000 acres of agricultural land, on that land, over 5,600 farmers sold $395 million in products in 2007. 

Reducing the quantity of stormwater runoff is a common priority within Southeast Michigan watersheds. But how much runoff reduction is necessary to realize a demonstrated improvement in receiving water quality? Two ongoing projects are studying the connection between stream flashiness and receiving water quality. By establishing water quality metrics, local watershed groups and communities can prioritize stormwater projects and seek out partnership opportunities.

Parks and Conservation Lands
Southeast Michigan contains an estimated 197,000 acres of public parkland, with about 42 park acres per 1,000 residents. Parks in Southeast Michigan can be owned privately, by local communities and counties, the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the State of Michigan, and federal agencies. During stakeholder visioning sessions, parks were listed as the top green infrastructure technique that stakeholders believe provide the highest economic value to their area.

One of the primary funding sources for parkland acquisition and development is the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. SEMCOG can assist members with the application process by providing data, reviewing applications, and providing letters of support for projects consistent with SEMCOG’s regional plans.

Tree Canopy
Tree canopy is an element of green infrastructure that supports numerous outcomes. Trees provide necessary habitat, improve aesthetics, add to a pedestrian friendly downtown, increase local property values – including local business revenue – and provide water- and air-quality benefits.

The regional land cover estimates a 33 percent tree canopy for Southeast Michigan. Tree canopy within each county ranges from a low of 20 percent to a high of 44 percent. Tree canopy percentages are also available by community.

Developing Regional Solutions
SEMCOG is a regional planning partnership of governmental units serving 4.7 million people in the seven-county region of Southeast Michigan striving to enhance the region's quality of life.