Nature In The City - City of Fort Collins (USA)
Nature in the City is the next evolution in conservation in Fort Collins. The program seeks to increase people's connection to nature while enhancing wildlife habitat. To achieve this, Nature in the City activates innovative partnerships, policies, and projects.
That all residents of Fort Collins, USA are within a 10-minute walk to nature and important wildlife corridors are protected and restored.
Fort Collins is a city of approximately 150,000 people in Colorado, USA. The location is prime for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat: the community sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains along the banks of the Cache la Poudre River. Several decades of voter-initiated sales taxes for open space acquisition has conserved over 40,000 acres of protected access for recreation and wildlife habitat through the Natural Areas Department. However, the City is rapidly growing, the core becoming more urban with less natural features. This has led to parts of the community not having easy access to nature from where they live and work. Similarly, there are gaps in connectivity for important wildlife corridors in the City.
The Nature in the City program started with an extensive public engagement process to better understand 1) what residents valued about connecting to nature, 2) where they could access nature and, 3) what barriers prevented easy access.
The public feedback was coupled with an interdepartmental effort within the city organization to assess opportunities to collaborate on providing access to nature. Experts from Colorado State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society were also employed to conduct a citywide biological assessment to identify important wildlife corridors and gaps needing protection or restoration. The data collected fed into a policy document, the Nature in the City strategic plan, which outlines the specific efforts needed to accomplish the vision of the program. The Nature in the City strategic plan was adopted by city council in 2015. Current efforts include:
- Updating the City's Land Use and Building Codes to encourage new development to incorporate Nature in the City goals.
- Maps and connectivity analysis of a ten minute walk to nature and wildlife connectivity have been completed.
- Funding and planning support for local projects are now available; examples might include pollinator gardens, wildlife habitat restoration efforts, construction of trails to better connect a neighborhood to nearby nature, or other ideas. Projects don't have to be big to be impactful -- small, creative, and unique projects are encouraged to apply. Unlike a typical grant-funding program, Nature in the City wants to partner with community members in their own neighborhood to make the greatest impact.
While 2016 is the first year of implementation, a baseline assessment of the portion of the city that was accessible within a 10-minute walk, along with the important existing wildlife corridors was completed, a suite of pilot projects was completed, and annual assessments in any changes will show the progress of this program.
- An assessment of similar programs around the world was conducted coupled with local feedback from residents.
- Close partnerships with experts at Colorado State University and Wildlife Conservation Society provided context for wildlife needs.
- Partnering with other departments within the City, along with non-profit organizations, among many others within the community will help ensure that the vision of the project is possible.