Our Natural Legacy: A Plan for Columbia and Boone County

In the fall of 2012, CI was approached by the Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri (see to conduct a strategic planning process for the small, all-volunteer, organization. Prior to agreeing to take on such work on behalf of Greenbelt, CI Senior Associate for Conservation and Sustainable Development, Roger Still, reached out to potential conservation and community partners and discovered an appetite for something more broadly collaborative and ambitious than a traditional land trust plan. Modeled on a green infrastructure plan done by The Conservation Fund, a national organization, in Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee, the planning combined the capacities of The Conservation Fund and CI to create tangible outcomes for Greenbelt and, ultimately, the community of Columbia/Boone County, Missouri.

Utilizing The Conservation Fund’s green infrastructure planning model, CI assembled a local team of scientific experts into a Technical Committee to inform and review the plan. Through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology, and tapping into existing data from state and national sources, the resulting technical report created a framework for prioritizing actions that benefitted both people and the environment.

Alongside this technical process, CI assembled a Steering Committee composed of a broad range of stakeholders to identify strategic priorities around the theme of nature in Boone County. The group coalesced early around “Our Natural Legacy” as a unifying name for the effort, and garnered significant buy-in from interests that are sometimes disconnected from each other or even at odds when it comes to environmental issues. These interests, represented on the Steering Committee, included agricultural, educational, conservation, arts, health and other elements of the community, and ranged from large federal and state agencies to nonprofits and private citizens.

In March, 2014 the report Our Natural Legacy: A Plan of Columbia and Boone County was published which you can see on the Greenbelt website. More importantly, however, tangible projects were conceptualized and launched—planning for a K-5 nature school in the community was initiated; a US Fish and Wildlife Visitor’s Center along the Missouri River at the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge was supported and is now in process of becoming a reality; and Greenbelt received funding for its first full-time employee to deepen their work in land conservation. CI also provided a governance framework, based on the Collective Impact model, necessary to move the entire project forward, identified the level of public and private funding that would be required for the vision to be realized, and discussions in the community are still ongoing about moving forward across all fronts based upon the strengths of the organizations and citizen efforts that coalesced around Our Natural Legacy.

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