«G PRINCIPLES UIDING Environmental Sterwardship In addressing the future of the community’s environmental resources, the following guid- “Clean ...»
The quality of life for future generations will be reflected in the
quality of the natural environment left to
them by present generations.
This section considers the place of environmental resources in fulfilling the Comprehensive Plan’s vision for the city and county’s
future. The section includes an outline of the guiding principles for
this element of the Plan, a review of the key environmental resource
features, a discussion of the element’s “Core Resource Imperatives,” and a long range environmental natural resources planning and implementation approach with associated strategies, entitled “The Greenprint Challenge.”
UIDINGEnvironmental Sterwardship In addressing the future of the community’s environmental resources, the following guid- “Clean air, clean water, parks and open space, mature trees, signature
ing principles should be considered:
habitats, and prime and productive MAINTAIN THE RICHNESS AND DIVERSITY OF THE COUNTY’S farmlands are valuable assets.
URBAN AND RURAL ENVIRONMENTS Conservation areas, floodplains, green spaces, and parks define, and Lancaster County boasts a diverse set of environmental resources and landscape types that help to create linkages between, neighborhoods and surrounding popushould be respected and maintained.
lation centers. The Comprehensive Plan takes into consideration the Lancaster County is home to a distinctive association of threatened and endangered effects of natural phenomena not only species of plants and animals that represents a highly valued environmental legacy.
upon localized development, but also Environmental resources reside within a broad range of settings that should be considered upon the community as a whole, upon
Public-private alliances and partnerships should be built upon, with an emphasis on the natural resources features rather than the patterns of ownership or land use on which the resources exist.
The community should capitalize upon both the environmental and economic benefits that the natural resources features provide.
Signature landscapes provide visual images of the community’s natural and cultural history and serve as a reminder of the ecosystem that forms the community’s urban and rural economic base.
Signature landscapes will require thoughtful management if their long term viability is to be ensured.
Lancaster County lies within a large portion of the central plains of North America dominated by certain shared characteristics – e.g., topography, climate, soils, surface water, ground water, vegetation, and wildlife.
As a Comprehensive Plan land use category, “environmental resource features” represent an important part of today’s urban and rural landscapes. Such features need to be valued and sustained as part of the overall planning process if they are to remain as vital parts of the natural heritage left for succeeding generations. These features help to define the County’s unique sense of place — geographically, culturally, and temporally. The Plan fully recognizes the harmony and connections that exist within and between these features.
Saline Wetlands – This feature refers to those locations in the county where wetlands having a high salt content can be found. Saline wetlands have four distinguishing characteristics: a type of soil usually associated with damp or soggy areas; the presence of water during most of the year; a high occurrence of saline (otherwise know as salt); and plants that are adapted to wet, salty soils. Eastern Nebraska saline wetlands are rare, with perhaps 1,200 acres remaining in the county. They tend to be found along Little Salt Creek
and Rock Creek to the north and northeast of Lincoln. They provide habitat to a number of threatened and endangered species of plants and animals – the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle and the Salt Wort in particular.
Parks, Trail Corridors and Other Recreational Areas – While the Comprehensive Plan recognizes parks, trails, and recreational areas as a separate, distinctive land use category, they are an important part of the overall county’s natural resource base. They include a diverse collection of sites and facilities owned, managed, and maintained by public entities and accessible to the general community. They accommodate a variety of recreational uses including passive and active recreation, hunting, fishing, and boating.
Floodplains – This feature refers to land that is susceptible to flooding or that has flood prone soils.
Floodplains provide multiple benefits to both the natural (flood storage, habitat, water quality) and built (recreation, public health and safety, economic) environments.
Agricultural Lands – This feature refers to land — about 77 percent of the county — utilized for growing crops, raising livestock, or producing other agricultural produce. Though agricultural activity is identified as a separate land use category in the Comprehensive Plan, agricultural land does constitute a distinctive natural resource feature as well. These lands are an integral element in the natural landscape providing habitat as well as being a basic piece of the County’s historic signature landscape.
Cultural and Historic Landscapes – This feature refers to places that are significant because of their unique character, because significant activities or events occurred at those sites, or because persons who have had a significant impact in culture are associated with the sites. As with several other natural resource features, Cultural and Historic Landscapes are also considered in other parts of the Comprehensive Plan.
However, they individually and collectively add value to the community’s sense of place and hold an important place in affirming memorable images of the County’s heritage.
Freshwater Wetlands – This feature refers to areas that have hydric (i.e., water-bearing) soils, are frequently if not regularly moist, and are home to water tolerant plants. These types of wetlands are distinguished from “saline wetlands” by the lack of salt in the water that keep them wet. Freshwater wetlands are more prevalent in the county than are saline wetlands. This does not make them a less worthwhile natural resource feature as they provide important water quality and habitat functions. The use of many freshwater and saline wetlands are regulated under Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act.
Riparian Areas – This feature refers to spaces immediately adjacent to water courses on each side of a stream. They are most often located in the floodplain. They frequently contain a large amount of woody vegetation. Riparian areas can serve as linear connections between natural and built areas, as well as serve as boundaries and edges to a variety of adjacent land uses. They offer numerous benefits including flood storage, storm water conveyance, habitat, recreation, visual appeal, and shaded areas.
Basins and Streams – This feature refers to the region’s watersheds and the waterways they produce. These areas are demarcated by ridge lines that define the top of each basin. The primary basins and streams within Lancaster County include but are not limited to Salt Creek, Antelope Creek, Dead Man’s Run, Lynn Creek, Middle Creek, Haines Branch, Oak Creek, Stevens Creek, Beal Slough, and the upper tributaries of the Nemaha River. Most of the county is within the Salt Creek basin.
Threatened and Endangered Species – This feature refers to those plant and animal species who’s continued existence have been identified by Federal and/or State officials as being threatened or endangered. In Lancaster County these include the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle (State Endangered), Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (State and Federal Threatened), Saltwort or Western Glasswort (State Endangered), Least Bittern (State Threatened), and the Massasauga Rattle Snake (State Threatened). Other species having habitat or that have historically been found in Lancaster County include the Bald Eagle (State and Federal Threatened), River Otter (State Threatened), Small White Lady’s Finger Orchid (State Threatened), Topeka Shiner (State and Federal Endangered), and American Burying Beetle (State and Federal Threatened).
The thirteen resource features described above all represent greatly cherished elements of the city and county’s natural environment. Based upon further assessment and review of these features, three “Core Resource Imperatives” were identified. These imperatives were selected as those that should receive the greatest consideration in the long range planning process. Their selection does not mean that the other features are unimportant, inconsequential, or expendable.
The “Core Resource Imperatives” uniquely contribute to the natural resource heritage of the region and whose safeguarding for future generations is indispensable. The other features remain important to the long term environmental and economic viability of the community and should not be inordinately discounted.
and County are investigating ways to protect and preserve the unique habitat offered by the saline wetlands.
This may include a blend of land uses stressing education, parks, floodplain, and low intensity development.
Native Prairies – Prior to the European settlement period, tallgrass prairies dominated the Nebraska landscape. Native prairie remnants remain scattered throughout the County, providing a home to numerous grasses, wildflowers and forbs. The remaining native prairies are becoming rarer and thus are increasing in value as an ecological amenity. The prairies are a key component of the signature landscape the first Europeans encountered when they settled in Nebraska and remain a visual clue to Lincoln and Lancaster County’s “sense of place.” Riparian, Floodplains, and Stream Corridors – Streams and their adjoining corridors snake their way through much of Lancaster County. Throughout the region, surface water runoff flows into these stream corridors that typically consist of floodplains and riparian areas. These are instrumental in providing habitat and water infiltration benefits, along with serving as connectors to natural areas.
T GREENPRINT CHALLENGE: OVERVIEW HE
The purpose of the Comprehensive Plan’s Greenprint Challenge is to assure the long term health and integrity of the ecosystem upon which Lancaster County is superimposed, and to capture the community-wide quality of life and economic benefits that can be derived from the area’s environmental resource features.
Proper land use planning and plan implementation can aid in maintaining a healthy natural environment. While ultimately focusing on three “Core Resource Imperatives,” the Greenprint Challenge offers a basis within which crucial planning decisions concerning the wide range of environmental resource features can be effectively pursued.
Five levels of green space comprise the basic structure within which to view the Greenprint Challenge. All five levels play an important role in helping the community experience and understand the benefits of environmental resources, and in advancing the value placed on these resources by the community today and into the future. The
five Greenprint Challenge levels are as follows:
1. “Kitchen Window” Every home and place of work is surrounded by some sort of green space. This includes planted vegetation, birds, animals, etc. At the lowest level, green space is the view from each and every window. That view should be an enjoyable one.
2. Parks, recreation areas, and green partitions Parks, recreation areas, and green partitions between communities provide a diverse landscape important to a comfortable and acceptable community.
3. Urban forest In its totality, the urban forest consists of all vegetation, insects, animal life, etc., in the city. The urban forest plays an important ecological as well as an aesthetic role.
4. Natural recreation areas Disconnected or shielded from the community, these areas are set aside for the enjoyment of the natural environment. Hiker/biker trails and the Salt Valley Lakes are examples of such spaces.
5. Preserve ecological protection areas Protect areas that are biologically interconnected to support bird, animal, and insect migration and supporting vegetation. Examples are stream beds and wooded corridors, prairie land, and saline wetlands.
T GREENPRINT CHALLENGE: IMPLEMENTATION PRINCIPLESHE The true challenge of the Greenprint Challenge will ultimately be its implementation. The principles to be followed
in implementing the Greenprint Challenge are:
Seek early identification of areas to be preserved – While planning for future growth is integral to this Comprehensive Plan, it is equally important that environmental resource features be accorded similar attention. The community should invest planning resources into the early identification of those areas most valued as part of the Greenprint Challenge. This principle supports the notion of “getting ahead of the game” by knowing what resources are most valued, where they are located, and what actions should be made within the broader planning process to secure their future for the community.
Obtain reasonably constrained regulations – Maintaining a balance between the natural and human built environment is always a delicate one. Planning policy and regulatory approaches employed in achieving the Plan’s Vision and Greenprint Challenge should strive to be effective, tempered, pragmatic, circumscribed, and respectful of private property rights.