at Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois.
Misty dawn at Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois. © Charles Larry

Newsroom | The Nature Conservancy

New Report Demonstrates Funding Needs and Value of Parks and Conservation in Illinois

Chicago, IL

A new report, the Illinois Assessment of Parks and Land Conservation Funding Needs and Economic Benefits, estimates that forest preserve, conservation, and park districts will need more than $3 billion in funding over the next five years to meet land acquisition and capital needs. The report, produced by The Trust for Public Land, the Illinois Association of Park Districts, and The Nature Conservancy, found that investment from the state of Illinois could leverage local community support for projects that protect valuable natural areas important to people in Illinois who overwhelmingly support more open space.

The fact that Illinois has not had a capital bill since 2009 and has not invested in established programs to protect natural areas and local parks has driven the demand for open space to new levels. Illinois has a network of open spaces and natural areas that provides wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities that has been largely maintained by private land trusts and local forest preserve, conservation, and park districts in recent years.

The report outlines the economic benefits of open space to Illinois which include providing water quality protection, wildlife habitat, removing air pollution and sequestering carbon to address impacts of climate change. Land conservation in Illinois contributes to a thriving outdoor recreation economy generating $25.8 billion each year and sustains 200,000 jobs. In 2017, park visitors spent an estimated $13.8 million and generated $20.3 million in economic output in Illinois.   

Open space projects range from protection of large tracts of land to development of neighborhood parks. Plans for land acquisition, new trails, recreation facilities and broad scale restoration are already in place and can be implemented quickly, stimulating economic development and creating a lasting legacy.

Illinois lawmakers are tackling tough budget issues in Springfield this spring. A much-anticipated capital bill is expected to be a priority since the state has not made investments in many capital programs in a decade. As the state looks ahead to budget priorities and planning initiatives, decision-makers must consider the needs of conservation and parkland providers and investing in our natural areas for future generations should be among the priorities.

This report was produced with generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land’s mission is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Every park, playground, and public space we create is an open invitation to explore, wonder, discover, and play. The Trust for Public Land has been connecting communities to the outdoors and residents to one another since 1972. Today, millions of Americans live within a 10-minute walk of a park or natural area the organization helped create, and countless more visit those spaces every year.  www.tpl.org

Illinois Association of Park Districts
The Illinois Association of Park Districts is a nonprofit service, research and education organization that serves park districts, forest preserves, conservation, municipal park and recreation, and special recreation agencies. The association advances these agencies, their citizen board members and professional staff in their ability to provide outstanding park and recreation opportunities, preserve natural resources and improve the quality of life for all people in Illinois. www.ilparks.org

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.