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Natural Infrastructure Project of Southwestern Pennsylvania

The primary purpose of the Natural Infrastructure (NI) Project of Southwestern Pennsylvania was to strike a balance between the region’s four key natural infrastructure uses – ecology, cultural heritage, human use and economics. EPD was contracted by a partnership group consisting of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Heinz Endowments, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The NI Project focuses on the region's natural resources that are critical to the region's quality of life and suggests a strategic implementation framework and toolbox for balancing future NI opportunities.

The main products of the NI Project are published in a three-volume series: Regional Case Studies, the NI Atlas and the NI Framework. The Regional Case Studies establish the relationships between natural infrastructure planning and economic vitality of three economically vital American cities as well as Southwestern Pennsylvania. The NI Atlas defines and documents the natural infrastructure of Southwestern Pennsylvania based on a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis. The NI Framework establishes a blueprint for prioritizing natural infrastructure uses within the region based on a sustainable balance between resource availability, carrying capacity and economic significance. Finally, a by-product of the NI Project was the creation of a Natural Infrastructure Resource Program within the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to maintain natural resource-related GIS mapping data.

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