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Citizen-led Environmental Priorities Task Force reports recommendations

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The co-chairs of the Springfield-Greene County Citizens Environmental Task Force, Dan Hoy and Fred Palmerton,  presented city and county officials its recommendations today.

The 31-member advisory group met nine times during the past year to identify community priorities, as the City of Springfield, Greene County and City Utilities continue to refine an Integrated Plan for the Environment.

Green logo“Traditionally, environmental regulations are driven by technical, political and legal priorities,” explains City Manager Greg Burris. “One part of our holistic planning process is to look at community priorities and citizen input in that is important.”

The group’s charge included:

• Developing an environmental vision statement for the community.
• Developing specific goals relevant to each environmental resource.• Developing policy statements around the existing principals of the Springfield-Greene County Integrated Plan for the Environment.

During each meeting, task force members were asked to think about what issues were the most important to them, as well as where they were important. Task force members participated in several individual and group exercises designed to provide a forum for discussion and to help the group focus on their priorities.

Like many others across the nation, the Springfield community is addressing the challenge of increasingly stringent environmental regulations on all fronts. From stormwater to wastewater to air quality and drinking water, as these regulation continue to evolve, the community is required to devote more money and resources to comply. These pressures come at a time with other community needs continue to strain a city and county that have expenses outpacing revenues.

“This is a huge issue for communities who are struggling to meet them with limited resources,” says Hoy, director of facilities at Bass Pro, who also co-chaired a City-County citizen task force charged with addressing stormwater management.

“The goal of integrated planning is to identify better ways to meet the regulatory requirements in a financially sustainable way. We’re aiming to answer the question, if I only had one dollar, where would I spend it?”

Springfield is one of the first communities in the country to develop a holistic Integrated Plan determining how to better manage area environmental priorities with regulatory requirements for air, water and land resources.

The planning approach has received written approval from both the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Environmental Protection Agency Region 7. Burris recently returned from Washington, D.C. where he was asked to present details to a conference with DNR directors from all 50 states.

“I get to look at stewardship of our natural resources from a state perspective, and there are certain leaders in our state that you always know you can count on to be on the front end of environmental protection, and Springfield is always at the top of that list,” says Sara Parker Pauley, MDNR Director.

“Sometimes the conversation about environmental protection is in silos… either talking about air protection, water protection or solid waste issues. But the conversation needs to be much more integrated. We need to look at communities, or ecosystems.”

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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