Oklahoma City’s 621 square mile area includes many ecosystems, with 130 years of urban development overlaid on the original rolling prairies and forests of the Great Plains. While the prairies, streams, and forests have been occupied for millennia, large scale land conversion to cultivation, pasture, and urbanization began with the Land Run of 1889.
As agriculture and urban development accelerated, we modified waterways, tilled soil, and built structures to meet human needs. Today, the developed city includes everything from farms to soaring skyscrapers. The natural environment – the land below and the sky above – envelops all of our human activity, and its health has a profound effect on the health of the city and its people. We value our environment for its beauty, recreational qualities, and the refuge it offers from the demands of city life. Too often; however, we take for granted a safe water supply, clean air, and rapid removal of waste products and stormwater. These resources are much more vulnerable than we might think.
Oklahoma City’s urban and suburban neighborhoods, rural areas, agriculture, and natural landscapes are interdependent. The foundation of any city is based on its ability to provide clean water, fresh air, healthy food, and safety to its citizens, and a healthy natural environment is critical to this enterprise. Though urban development can threaten the very resources that help sustain us, successful planning for the wise use and preservation of our environmental assets begins with understanding some of our challenges.
greenokc is the environmental and natural resources element of planokc. This element assesses the impacts of development on ecological systems and recommends policies and practices that minimize negative impacts of land use and development on those systems. If we focus on the conservation of our valuable natural resources, we can successfully harmonize development and market demands with preservation of a healthy natural environment.