Sustainability and Climate Change Introduction

Nov 29, 2017


To achieve a more vibrant and livable future, a community's plans and policies should consider short- and long-term impacts on the "three Es" of sustainability: environment, economy, and equity. Since these three elements are inherently interconnected, sustainability planning encompasses a wide variety of topics in practice.

CMAP has many programs and initiatives relating to sustainability and planning, including water resource protection and conservation, open space, climate change adaptation, and local food systems. CMAP also helps communities plan for sustainability more broadly by aiding in the creation of sustainability plans through the CMAP Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program.


One of CMAP's major goals is to promote an integrated approach to water resource planning, which involves actions that protect and enhance water quality and quantity in all parts of the water cycle. CMAP facilitated and now leads implementation of Water 2050 in a variety of ways, including regional coordination on water supply issues, as well as promoting strategies to reduce water loss and increase water conservation. As the designated water quality planning agency for the region, CMAP works with local governments and stakeholders to restore the region's water resources through watershed and wastewater planning. In addition, CMAP is responding to the growing need to address stormwater management and flood prevention by promoting the integration of better stormwater management decisions into local plans and policies.

Open Space

Fewer than half of the residents of the CMAP region have access to adequate park and recreation areas near their homes. Metropolitan Chicago must preserve, maintain, and expand our system of parks and open space. In 2012, Chicago Wilderness and The Conservation Fund refined and updated the Green Infrastructure Vision (GIV), which identifies the most important areas to protect in the region. The GIV data package, available on the 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.

Natural Resources Inventory

Regional analysis of natural areas, parks, and open space relies upon regularly-updated geospatial information about a variety of factors - including land cover/use characteristics, protected status, and ecological integrity.  The Natural Resources Inventory, a list of useful natural resource datasets related to these and other factors, is shown below.  Each record includes the most recently available vintage and provides a link to download or request the data.  Many of these datasets were inputs to one or more iteration of the GIV, and most have been updated since GIV 2.3.



Data Download/Request




Land Use Inventory


Comprehensive parcel-based Land Use Inventory, containing 59 different use classes for over 2.5 million parcels.

University of Vermont and USDA Forest Service

High-Resolution Land Cover (Urban Tree Canopy)


High-resolution land cover grid which utilizes a "top-down" mapping perspective in order to assess tree canopy.  Currently only available for Cook County.


National Land Cover Database


Medium-resolution land cover grid systematically produced to allow land cover trend analysis.  Also includes percent imperviousness and percent tree canopy.


National Hydrography Dataset "Plus"


Integrated hydrologic framework which incorporates the National Hydrography Dataset, the National Elevation Dataset, and the National Watershed Boundary Dataset.

Ducks Unlimited and USFWS

Enhanced National Wetland Inventory


Draft version of updated 2005-2007 NWI data, whose previous vintage was the early 1980's.  USFWS wetland classification codes are provided for each feature.


Cropland Data Layer


Medium-resolution land cover grid which includes crop-specific classification.


Protected Areas Database


Official protected land ownership dataset for the United States, which contains federal lands and slightly older versions of the next four datasets in this list.


Nature Preserves, Land and Water Reserves, and Natural Heritage Landmarks


Location/extent of protected lands and waters within the Illinois Nature Preserves System. More…


State-Owned Open Space


Location/extent of protected lands and waters managed by IDNR.

County Forest Preserve and Conservation Districts

Forest Preserves and Conservation District Lands


Download/Request: Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry, Will


Location/extent of protected lands and waters managed by the County Forest Preserve Districts and the McHenry County Conservation District.

National Conservation Easement Database

National Conservation Easement Database


Location/extent of conservation easement lands, including permanent vs. temporary designation.


LANDFIRE database


Variety of vegetation characterization datasets developed primarily for fire behavior modeling.  Potentially useful datasets include  vegetation type/cover/height, forest canopy bulk density, and environmental site potential.


Natural Areas Inventory


Location/extent of high-quality natural areas, including habitat suitable for state-listed threatened and endangered (T&E) species. More...


Natural Heritage Database


Occurrence locations for state and federally-listed T&E species.

IL Audubon Society

Important Bird Areas


Location/extent of habitat for bird species of state conservation concern, as well as unique habitat types or congregatory sites.

Morton Arboretum

Oak Ecosystems


Historic (1939) and current (2010) extents of oak ecosystems larger than one acre in size. More…


Biologically Significant Streams


Stream segments with high species richness and/or biological integrity. More…


Landscapes of Ecological Importance


Ecological assessment of forests, grasslands, and wetlands based on criteria such as patch size, remoteness from roads, and soil characteristics. More…


Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) floodplains


Location/extent of FEMA 100 and 500 year floodplains.


Gridded Soil Survey Data (SSURGO)


Gridded version of Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) Database.  Includes 57 pre-summarized attributes such as soil organic carbon, root zone depth, and potential wetland soil landscapes.


Pre-settlement vegetation


Pre-settlement land cover mapped by PLSS surveyors from 1804 to 1843.

Oregon State PRISM Climate Group

Historic Monthly/Annual Temperature and Precipitation


Gridded 30-year normals (AKA average conditions) for climate variables such as precipitation and min/max temperature.


Projected Monthly/Annual Temperature and Precipitation


Modeled temperature and precipitation conditions based on a subset of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios.

Climate Change

Proactively addressing the impacts of climate change is integral to achieving long-term sustainability. Improving the resilience of existing built and natural environments ensures that communities are better prepared to deal with more frequent extreme weather events, increased heat waves, and other expected climate impacts.

The CMAP Climate Adaptation Guidebook provides municipal governments with strategies for adapting public infrastructure and services in light of anticipated climate changes in the region. The guidebook includes strategies for updating codes to account for changes in temperature and precipitation, as well as recommendations for managing air quality and open spaces.

CMAP is also working with government partners and many non-profit and community-based organizations to build regional resilience through the Northeastern Illinois Resilience Partnership. As part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), the City of Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, and the State of Illinois are coordinating efforts to develop a regional approach to  preparing for and recovering from natural disasters. This effort will support innovative pilot projects across the state and promote long-term policy changes that better prepare communities to face extreme weather and climate change. 

Local Food

Local food systems increase the economic vitality and livability of communities. A CMAP microsite explores how local food travels from farm to table within metropolitan Chicago and how local governments can strengthen local food systems.

Sustainability Planning

The LTA program assists communities around the region, including DuPage County, Park ForestNiles, and Lake County, to create plans to guide future decision-making in a manner that is consistent with sustainable practices. A sustainability plan contains goals, policies and/or strategies, indicators, and implementation direction on key related topic areas, which are chosen by the community. Key topic areas typically include land use and development, transportation, open space, natural resources, waste, water, energy, greenhouse gases, climate change, local food, municipal policies, and education. 

CMAP has also develped resources for communities interested in developing sustainability plans. The Sustainability Planning White Paper provides a step-by-step overview of the planning process, highlighting the aspects that make sustainability planning unique from comprehensive planning. The accompanying Sustainability Indicators Guide provides a blueprint for selecting sustainability indicators and measuring progress on sustainability goals over time.