Open land provides significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to citizens and local communities.
- A 2014 Trust for Public Land’s study on the economic benefits associated with the use of parks and natural resources concluded that every $1 invested returns $4 in economic value.
- 3.8 million residents and nonresidents hunt, fish, and enjoy wildlife in Illinois each year, contributing $3.8 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the State’s economy.
- Spending on outdoor recreation in Illinois supports 204,000 jobs and produces nearly $1.6 billion annually in state and local tax revenue.
- Of the residents in Illinois counties with park districts, 83% visited a park in the last year, averaging more than a dozen visits.
- In Illinois, there are 316,000 hunters, 873,000 anglers, and 1.2 million who watch wildlife.
- For every 1% of increase in protected wetlands along a stream corridor, peak flows decrease by up to 8%, crucial for stormwater runoff and flood management.
- Open space helps to replenish groundwater with uncontaminated water, which benefits communities who depend on this resource for their drinking water. Untreated stormwater contains unsafe levels of heavy metals, especially copper, lead, and zinc and high levels of coliform bacteria
- The quantity of water to serve Illinois’ growing population from aquifers, inland streams and Lake Michigan is limited. Open space provides opportunities for water recharge, buffering and managed development.
Open Space Funding Receives Strong Support from Illinois Voters
A May 2009 poll of Illinois voters revealed that while voters are highly concerned about the condition of the Illinois economy, they are strongly supportive of making substantial investments in land and water conservation.
- More than 75% would like to see state spending increased (40%) or kept at the same level (36%)
- 73% of voters agree that “even though state revenues are down, the Illinois state budget should include funding for land and water conservation.”
- 83% agree that “We can protect land and water and have a strong economy at the same time, without having to chose one over the other.”
Americans Support Conserving Natural Resources
A national poll conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates and Public Opinion Strategies from June 2012 shows support for conservation among American voters that crosses party and ideological lines. Specifically, of American voters polled:
- 79% believe that we can protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs for Americans at the same time, without having to choose one over the other
- 74% believe that even with federal budget problems, funding to safeguard land, air and water should not be cut
- 70% believe that our state and national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential park of their state’s economy
- 77% believe that one of the things our government does best is to protect and preserve our national history and natural beauty through national parks, forests and other public lands
How Local Communities Have Made an Impact
Illinois residents regularly pass referenda to support investments in park district improvements and to acquire land for non-conservation purposes. Local programs are a crucial part of open space programs in Illinois. Between 2000 and 2013, forest preserve and conservation districts in the greater Chicago area passed more that a dozen ballot measure which collectively generated more than $1 billion in new land conservation spending. Specific examples of how local communities can make significant investments in open space include the following:
- In 2008, voters in Lake County passed a $185 million bond for open space, habitat protection, and improved public access to preserves
- In 2006, voters in the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District approved a ten-year, 6 cent property tax increase, which could generate an additional $5 million to preserve open land space.
- In 2005, voters in Campton Township in Kane County passed a $28 million bond for further open space acquisition and preservation