scale, as much of the tall grass prairie across the United States no longer exists.
Challenges and barriers to the efforts of the local organizations listed above and others were also discussed. Many participants stated that limited financial resources were the most critical barrier to pathways forward, and that more work needs to be done to identify and share funding sources. Cultural change and education were also mentioned as elements necessary to support sustainability efforts. Some participants offered the example of the Bike Ways Program, which tries to better educate bicycle riders and automobile drivers about road safety. Communication was also mentioned as a challenge, as well as the lack of coordination among organizations and businesses that are focusing on the same issues.
Several participants discussed the possibility of developing a sustainability plan for the region. The group recognized the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) as the central planning agency for the 13-county region, and therefore a key player in any regional sustainability plan. Participants in this breakout discussion also suggested including Region H for planning purposes in the region. Region H, which includes portions of the Trinity, San Jacinto, and Brazos river basins, and encompasses the Houston metropolitan area, adds an additional five counties outside of the H-GAC’s 13 counties.
Several members of the breakout group suggested that a comprehensive regional sustainability plan could be developed from a set of existing separate plans. For example, regional plans for energy and transportation are currently being developed, and could feed into this larger plan and possibly serve as models for other areas, such as public health or education, where plans are not being developed. The regional plan would need to be implemented incrementally, as the challenge of dealing with many individual jurisdictions and partners is enormous. Conceivably, partners and stakeholders in the plan would be involved in some issues but not necessarily in all decision making. The five additional counties in Region H, for example, might be involved only in water planning issues in the region.
They explained that although most components of the plan, such as transporta tion or water, would have a clear agency lead, some areas such as hazard management would not. This plan would need to entail both hazard mitigation and adaptation strategies; so a research component would be needed to help identify those strategies. The group finished by discussing how such a plan would be implemented, and again identified