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Case Studies

GIS: A Valuable Planning Tool

“To effectively address green infrastructure issues, local communities must view themselves as part of a larger regional or watershed context. Water and air flow in and out of communities, as do traffic, people, and wildlife. Urban and nearby residents need to learn how their land-use decisions affect one another and how they might work together to achieve common goals.”

~Kansas City Region. Green Infrastructure: Designing with Nature


The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) is a regional planning organization that serves 116 cities in eight county governments within the states of Kansas and Missouri. The region has recognized its need for smart growth to balance future development while protecting, preserving, and enhancing the region’s natural resources. 

MARC enlisted the help of the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service and the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing organizations to produce a Natural Resources Inventory using the geographic information system (GIS). GIS is a valuable tool that visually represents important geographic data, allowing stakeholders to analyze natural resource information and development patterns simultaneously to clearly see regional connectivity (Briechle, 2009).  Geographic representations demonstrate locations of natural resources, current and past development trends, and opportunities for smart growth. This case study demonstrates the effectiveness of mapping data with GIS, in attaining greater participation and unification of all stakeholders, including local and regional governments, civic leaders, conservation professionals, and elected officials. Collaboration among stakeholder groups allows for prioritization of urgent growth needs such as public and private transportation, housing, greenways, urban redevelopment, watershed management and economic development.  Collaboration also provides a basis for creating informed decisions that benefit all regional participants that share common natural resources (MARC, 2005). Communicating with a clear GIS-supported plan creates greater opportunity for funding sources and project support (Briechle, 2005).

GIS and Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure allows for natural resource conservation in conjunction with land development at local and regional scales as we see in the Kansas City Region Case Study. GIS is a productive tool to integrate natural resource management and future community growth during the planning phase, which is the best point for high-quality resource conservation (Briechle, 2009).  By mapping the location of streams, wetlands, historical prairie and savanna land-types, stakeholders can connect these important resources to parks, greenways, and stormwater management plans to conserve resources while concurrently providing recreation opportunities for the communities in this region (MARC, 2005).

The GIS data creates a strong visual representation that the region is able to use to construct a sustainable future for the region. The information collected and analyzed through GIS creates a clear representation of natural resources to be protected, data for better stormwater management, and recreational opportunities through the use of green infrastructure. Regional information facilitates and strengthens local planning efforts creating a vision for strong, economically viable, livable communities. The ability to use GIS and overlap development and growth data with natural resources creates a clear cohesive vision for the region and is the basis for collaboration between regional communities.

Briechle, Kendra. 2009Green Infrastructure – Linking Lands for Nature and People. Kansas City Green Infrastructure Case Study. The Conservation Fund.

Kansas City Region. Green Infrastructure: Designing With Nature. February 2005.

MARC. February 2005. On the Map Conservation Planning for the Kansas City Region.

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