Study: Restoring Forest Preserves Creates More than $8 for Every $1 Spent

October 19, 2016

Openlands and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. have documented impressive benefits to nature and the Cook County economy from restoring Forest Preserve properties to their native states.

Since 2008, Openlands has worked with Stantec at the Deer Grove Forest Preserve and with Living Habitats at Killdeer Wetlands Preserve (Tinley Creek). We have removed non-native plants, planted native grasses and flowers, repaired water ways, and encouraged local residents to help. This work has cost $5.3 million at Deer Grove alone. However, short-term construction jobs, maintenance work, and related spending have contributed $10.6 million to the local economy. Improved recreational opportunities ($20 million) and cleaner water and healthier wildlife habitat ($13.5 million) make the overall benefits of restoration more than eight times greater than its costs.

Water and habitat benefits were identified by a detailed study conducted by Stantec and WBK Engineering of Deer Grove East and Killdeer. This study measured the flow of water on these lands before and after restoration work was completed. It found that natural areas can keep more water from flowing off-site and into nearby streams and sewers after they have been restored. A major reason that the restored sites are able to retain more water is that drainage tiles installed about one hundred years ago were disabled to keep water on the site that otherwise would have drained away in as little as 24 hours.

These studies were completed with financial support from the O’Hare Modernization Mitigation Account and The Chicago Community Trust, as well as important assistance from the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

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