Natural Areas and Wetlands Restoration

Recognizing the limited financial resources of state and local governments, Openlands advocates for the smartest use of limited public resources to support communities and nature. We focus on wetlands restoration projects to manage stormwater, prevent local flooding, and improve habitat for wildlife. We capitalize on our impact by prioritizing restoration of headwater sites – the habitats that form the origins of our region’s rivers and streams.

Over the decades we have developed strong expertise in cutting-edge ecological restoration in order to restore the diversity and beauty of native prairie, woodland, wetland, and ravine ecosystems. As our regional knowledge of habitat restoration has improved over the decades, so too has our knowledge of green infrastructure grown through research and studies.

Openlands and Stantec Consulting, Inc. have published reports that show significant benefits from restoring Forest Preserve properties in Cook County. Two restoration projects replaced 1,440 acres of invasive, weedy vegetation, and old field drains with natural landscapes and wetlands. Restoration has allowed these sites to absorb 110 million more gallons of stormwater per year, yielding a better-than $8:1 return on project costs. Restoration work that recreated original wetlands at the Deer Grove East and Tinley Creek Wetlands forest preserves provided significant benefits to water resources. Restored wetlands keep more stormwater on-site, reducing runoff and pollution from entering streams or sewers.

In addition to water benefits, restoration is creating both short and long-term economic benefits, which when added together, exceed $44 million for the Deer Grove East restoration. For more information on these reports, please email policy@openlands.org.

Full Report: Ecosystem Restoration and Hydrology Changes Tool: Application and Analysis

Full Report: Economic Valuation Study: Deer Grove East