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Natural Systems

Protect and restore the natural resources upon which life depends

The 6 objectives in the Natural Systems Goal Area help communities protect and restore the places that provide resources to support life. The NS goal area takes an ecosystem services approach and recognizes the wide range of benefits natural systems provide, such as food, water, and natural regulating processes affecting climate and floods. Ecosystem services also extend to cultural benefits like aesthetic value and recreation.

NS-5: Water in the Environment and NS-4: Outdoor Air Quality bring attention to the reality that clean water and air are vital for humans and other species to thrive. NS-2: Biodiversity & Invasive Species recognizes that achieving biodiversity requires a two-prong approach of protecting habitats and controlling the spread of destructive non-native species.

With an emphasis on connectivity and collaboration, NS-3: Natural Resource Protection focuses on issues at a broad ecosystem and ecoregional scale. This objective is complemented by NS-1: Green Infrastructure, which aims to integrate natural design with the built environment and emphasizes benefits that extend beyond stormwater harvesting to include localized cooling and air quality. NS-6: Working Lands recognizes the environmental and economic contributions of land management to the Natural Systems Goal Area.

Objective Number Objective Title and Purpose


Green Infrastructure: Design and maintain a network of green infrastructure features that integrate with the built environment to conserve ecosystem functions and provide associated benefits to human populations 


Biodiversity & Invasive Species: Maintain the urban ecosystem habitat at levels that promote biodiversity and manage or prevent invasive species 


Natural Resource Protection: Protect, enhance, and restore natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes to confer resilience and support clean water and air, food supply, and public safety 


Outdoor Air Quality: Ensure that outdoor air quality is healthy for all segments of the human population and protects the welfare of the community 


Water in the Environment: Protect and restore the biological, chemical, and hydrological integrity of water in the natural environment 


Working Lands: Conserve and sustainably manage lands that provide ecosystem services and raw materials 

Each of the above objectives contains quantitative outcome and qualitative action measures. To see the evaluation measures, view the Natural Systems section of the rating system.

Top Achieving Communities

  • Northampton, MA: 85.4/100, 5-STAR Certified Community
  • Cambridge, MA: 83.6/100, 5-STAR Certified Community
  • Seattle,WA: 83.2/100, 5-STAR Certified Community
  • Tucson, AZ: 82.1/100, 4-STAR Certified Community
  • Austin, TX: 81.5/100, 4-STAR Certified Community