In the 20th Century, we preserved the land. In the 21st, let’s restore it.

Building the Economic Case for Nature

Economic Impact

Chris Adas
Real Estate Agent
Forest Preserves of Cook County

The Forest Preserves of Cook County protect nature, help clean our water and air, reduce flooding, increase property values, and improve public health. The Next Century Conservation Plan (NCCP) Economics Committee is tasked with documenting and promoting this broad range of benefits so that communities throughout the county understand and value the economic benefits of these protected lands. To do so, we are using various tools and studies including: (i) a new documentary produced by WYCC PBS, (ii) a joint marketing campaign focused on birding, and (iii) analysis by Camoin Associates documenting the Forest Preserves’ $1.5 billion economic impact to the local economy over the past 13 years.

The new documentary, Chicago’s True Nature, captures the sights and sounds of the Forest Preserves and explores the central role the FPCC plays in keeping these treasures safe for future generations. The documentary has been screened more than twenty times on WYCC PBS and at the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre; this fall it will be shown in classrooms throughout the county.

To encourage people to better understand and appreciate the many species of birds which live in the Forest Preserves, FPCC and partners from Audubon Chicago Region, Bird Conservation Network, the Field Museum, Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden declared 2016 the year to “Bird the Preserves.” The partners launched a joint marketing campaign to draw experienced and beginner birders to the preserves. To date, nearly 1,000 birders have visited forest preserves to attend guided bird walks, special events and programs throughout the county.

The documentary and special events like the Bird the Preserves initiative are important tools to promote the Forest Preserves and build broader understanding of how these natural areas add to our quality of life. The third tool we are using focuses on the quantifiable economic impacts of the FPCC in terms of impacts to local property values and the economic value of stormwater management provided by forest preserves. The first economic impact study, conducted by Camoin Associates, analyzes the economic impact resulting from FPCC spending on operations and capital improvements from 2003 to 2015. The results of the analysis show a substantial $1.5 billion economic impact to the local economy over the 13-year period.  In addition, for every one Forest Preserves job, an additional two jobs are generated elsewhere in the county.

Economic Impact
The Forest Preserves of Cook County provides significant contributions to the county’s economy in terms of jobs, wages and sales, including:

  • $1.5 billion total economic impact to Cook County over a 13-year period
  • A return on investment of $2 in economic activity for every $1 spent by FPCC
  • For every 1 Forest Preserves job, an additional 2 jobs are generated elsewhere in the county economy
  • Cook County residents receive $215 million in annual direct use value from activities at FPCC lands and facilities
  • The Forest Preserves are responsible for generating $610,000 in annual sales tax revenue

Documenting these impacts helps us build the economic case for nature.


Chris Adas is the Forest Preserves of Cook County Real Estate Agent and the co-chair of the NCCP Economics Committee.