Green Infrastructure refers to two different but related planning concepts: site-scale green infrastructure or regional green infrastructure. Both were important parts of GO TO 2040, but were treated somewhat separately in the plan. The ON TO 2050 comprehensive regional plan offers an opportunity to explore the integration of green infrastructure at these different scales.
Regional green infrastructure is an interconnected network of open space that provide ecological and societal benefits. Green infrastructure can provide a range of ecosystem functions, including stormwater management, recreation, water filtration, carbon sequestration, habitat provision, and air purification.
On a site-scale, green infrastructure encompasses a suite of techniques that use vegetation, soils, and natural processes to mimic natural hydrology. Site-specific green infrastructure practices, such as bioswales and rain gardens, can serve as effective supplements or alternatives to traditional "gray infrastructure," such as sewer pipes, wastewater treatment plants, and other engineered systems. Like other forms of infrastructure, green infrastructure needs to be managed, restored, and expanded.
Green infrastructure at the regional scale is described by the Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision (GIV). Developed through a collaborative and consensus-based process, the GIV consists of spatial data and policies describing the most important areas to protect in the region. The GIV was originally adopted by Chicago Wilderness in 2004 and has been refined over many years with the help of The Conservation Fund.
The GIV data package, available for public download on CMAP's Data Sharing Hub, contains a variety of spatial information about type and quality of ecosystems that make up the regional green infrastructure network. It is accompanied by two studies that classify ecosystems by landscape characteristics and estimate the value of ecosystem services provided by the GIV. Together, the GIV data and studies support conservation and restoration decisions in the region.
All agencies and organizations involved in conservation or urban development have a role to play in preserving green infrastructure. GO TO 2040 recommends protecting lands through conservation of green infrastructure resources. Based on the direction set in GO TO 2040, CMAP and partners have developed Policies to Encourage the Preservation of Regional Green Infrastructure. This policy paper explores how conservation goals can be achieved through transportation programming, local land use planning, federal compensatory wetland mitigation programs, and other mechanisms.
Site-scale Green Infrastructure Policy Resources
There is no shortage of resources describing the benefits of green infrastructure and promoting a larger commitment to its use in managing stormwater. The Manage and Conserve Water and Energy Resources section of GO TO 2040 strongly recommends a shift toward the use of green infrastructure. Selected resources include:
- Center for Neighborhood Technology Green Values Calculator. Estimates the environmental benefits and monetary savings associated with various deployments of bioswales, tree plantings, native landscaping, and other kinds of stormwater green infrastructure.
- Recommendations to the Illinois General Assembly. The University of Illinois at Chicago, CMAP, and several other organizations completed a report to the Illinois legislature recommending ways to incorporate green infrastructure into state regulations.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Provides information on the ways U.S. EPA is incorporating green infrastructure in a number of different agency programs, both regulatory and non-regulatory.