Natural Resources

Update: The Natural Resources ON TO 2050 Snapshot is now available, and your feedback is welcome. Please send your thoughts, ideas, or questions to See our Partner Toolkit to share the report with colleagues.

Natural Resources

Northeast Illinois is biologically diverse

Our region is located in a transitional zone between hardwood forests and tallgrass prairies.  This unique geography, coupled with the presence of Lake Michigan, creates a patchwork landscape of diverse habitats, capable of supporting a wide range of plant and animal species
Some of the ecosystems found here are among the rarest in the world.  Oak savannas, tallgrass prairies, sedge meadows, and fens – ecosystems that were once common – are now at risk of disappearing altogether. Identifying these areas, as well as the threats they are facing, is a critical first step to ensuring they continue to have a place in our region.

The Chicago region depends on its natural areas

Ecosystems and natural areas provide the Chicago region with a number of services, including flood control, groundwater recharge, water purification, and carbon storage.  Recent studies estimate the value of these services to be in excess of $6.4 billion per year, but the continued function of these services is not guaranteed. 
Development, pollution, climate change, and invasive species all negatively affect the ability of our natural areas to provide ecosystem services in the future.  To address these challenges, it is important to fully understand the scope of their impact in our region.

ON TO 2050 will support ecosystem services and conservation of natural areas, and encourage climate resilience 

In the past, CMAP has supported the region's natural resources by setting goals for managing and conserving water and energy resources, expanding and improving parks, and preserving open space.  ON TO 2050 will build on this work by developing comprehensive strategies for a variety of environmental topics, including green infrastructure, climate resilience, lands in transition, energy, water, and stormwater.  The Natural Resources snapshot will provide existing conditions and trends background for the development of these strategies.