A Model of Smart Restoration

The restoration of Deer Grove East has proven to be an extremely successful model. It now serves as not only an industry model, but the restoration is also of such a high quality that portions of the preserve have been enrolled in the Illinois Nature Preserve system, offering additional protections for the site in perpetuity.

Openlands and Stantec Consulting Services have worked together since 2008 to both restore Deer Grove East and to study the environmental and economic benefits of the project. The vibrant wildflowers and bird calls make it easy to understand the connection between the restoration of natural areas and an improvement in the appearance of the site. It’s a bit harder to see the other benefits, like economic growth and water management that result from restoration.

The revitalization of Deer Grove East has not only contributed to the local economy in the short-term, but it’s also expected to yield long-term economic gains from increased visitation, outdoor recreation, and ecosystem services. For example, the restoration will help nearby communities avoid flooding, which will also lead to economic benefits down the road. Deer Grove East has become an important model for the restoration of forest preserves around the county. Look through the entire report linked at the bottom of this page or read about the major findings below.

Major Findings

  • Following restoration, Deer Grove East attained a 94.7 native floristic quality index, an exceptional score that measures the diversity and type of native plants, making the site an industry model. 
  • Over 1,400 acres of invasive species were replaced with wetlands and natural landscapes.
  • The sites at Deer Grove East can now absorb 110 million more gallons of stormwater each year due to deep-rooted prairie plants and revitalized wetlands.
  • Deer Grove East and its recreational offerings provide an estimated $14 million per year to local economies.
  • Although the forest preserves are free, residents’ willingness to pay for the recreational experiences increased from $19.37 to $27.52 post- restoration.
  • In the short-term, the local economy has gained $10.6 million from the restoration, which is twice the associated cost of $5.3 million.
  • Long-term returns of 6:1 are projected over the next 20 years due to better recreational experiences and the improved quality of water and other natural resources. Together, these improvements will convey long-term benefits of $33.5 million.
  • Combining the long-term and short-term returns, the benefits of restoring Deer Grove East will exceed $44 million.
  • Using Deer Grove East as a model, if we restore just one-third of Cook County’s forest preserves, it would generate more than $7 billion.