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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

La Crosse set to become an Eco-Municipality

From an article by Paris Henne in the UW-La Crosse Raquet:

Legislation has been passed in La Crosse that endorses the "Natural Step model for Eco-Municipalities" and authorizes the City Planning Department to prepare a proposal for "developing a sustainable community plan."

According to "The Eco­municipality Model for Sustainable Community Change" by Torbj√∂rn Lahti and Sarah James, "An eco­municipality aspires to develop an ecologically, economically, and socially healthy community for the long term, using the Natural Step framework for sustainability as a guide."

According to the City of La Crosse Council, the purpose of the plan is "safeguarding and improving environmental features as a means of promoting neighborhood revitalization, community image and quality of life."

Also included are guidelines developed by the American Planning Association to help implement the plan. The city should:
1. Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels, and extracted underground metals and minerals.
2. Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in Nature.
3. Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining ecosystems.
4. Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

The city budget for the plan is $25,000 for planning consultant(s) and $5,000 for City staff. The source of the funds is "$15,000 from 2006 Community Development Block Grant and $l5,000 from the 2007 Community Development Block Grant sustainable plan funds," according to the city plan.

The Eco-Municipality model is different from others because it uses a "systems approach." Many communities in the US implement changes on a "project-by-project" basis. According to Lahti and James, "the key ingredients of a systems approach are widespread community awareness, raising an integrated municipal involvement, and using a common 'sustainability language' based upon the Natural Step framework." Therefore, the likelihood of conflict is minimized.

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