Chicago Wilderness, a regional alliance with more than 300 member organizations representing government, foundation, education, arts and business interests, has been our lead partner, with key support provided by two of the region's metropolitan planning organizations: the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Council (NIRPC). From big landscapes to individual neighborhoods, we’re helping Chicago Wilderness envision, map and implement plans for a network of more than two million acres of protected and restored lands and waters. Their conservation vision encompasses four states, 38 counties and more than 500 municipalities.

Our Role

In 2012, Chicago Wilderness turned to us to help refine a Green Infrastructure Vision first developed in 2004. With support from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Fund created an enhanced Vision to inform future regional and local planning and decision making. It also guides decisions on how to protect nearby lands that provide important natural assets like wildlife habitat, clean water, flood control and recreational opportunities.

To develop the refined Vision, we convened federal and state agencies, cultural and academic institutions, conservation groups, engineering firms, developers, corporations, local government officials and public works and transportation leaders. Building on this strong local foundation, we developed detailed maps and identified key strategies for protecting areas with high conservation value. The resulting plan links woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, streams and lakes within urban, suburban and rural areas around Chicago—all while supporting economic vitality and quality of life.

In 2014, with funding from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Council, we estimated the economic value of the region's natural ecosystems. We calculated in dollar terms how much benefit the natural systems in the Vision provided for flood control, water purification, groundwater recharge, carbon storage, air quality, and recreation and ecotourism. In 2016, the Fund was asked to help develop the Lake County Green Infrastructure Model and Strategy.

Planning A Future Connected By Nature

By creating a Green Infrastructure Vision for the entire region, we’re helping to ensure that the Chicago Wilderness Region will include communities linked by greenways, trails and recreational networks, and that critical habitat for wildlife, including migration corridors, is protected. Community-based Sustainable Watershed Action Teams, metropolitan planning organizations, and institutions in the region—like the Field Museum in Chicago—are using the updated Green Infrastructure Vision to create tailored plans that meet conservation and restoration goals. Our collective Vision is helping counties, municipalities and neighborhoods across the region plan for a greener tomorrow and better understand the economic benefits of natural ecosystems.

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