Sustainability and Climate Change Introduction

Oct 23, 2013


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.


Source Data Download/Request Vintage Description
CMAP Land Use Inventory 2010 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) 2010 High-resolution land cover grid which utilizes a "top-down" mapping perspective in order to assess tree canopy.  Currently only available for Cook County.
USGS National Land Cover Database 2011 Medium-resolution land cover grid systematically produced to allow land cover trend analysis.  Also includes percent imperviousness and percent tree canopy.
EPA National Hydrography Dataset "Plus" 2012 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 2005-2007 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.
USDA Cropland Data Layer 2014 Medium-resolution land cover grid which includes crop-specific classification.
USGS Protected Areas Database 2012 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.
IDNR Nature Preserves, Land and Water Reserves, and Natural Heritage Landmarks 2015 Location/extent of protected lands and waters within the Illinois Nature Preserves System. More…
IDNR State-Owned Open Space 2015 Location/extent of protected lands and waters managed by IDNR.
National Conservation Easement Database National Conservation Easement Database 2015 Location/extent of conservation easement lands, including permanent vs. temporary designation.
USGS LANDFIRE database 2012 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.
IDNR Natural Areas Inventory 2015 Location/extent of high-quality natural areas, including habitat suitable for state-listed threatened and endangered (T&E) species. More...
IDNR Natural Heritage Database 2015 Occurrence locations for state and federally-listed T&E species.
IL Audubon Society Important Bird Areas 2010 Location/extent of habitat for bird species of state conservation concern, as well as unique habitat types or congregatory sites.
Morton Arboretum Oak Ecosystems 1939/2010 Historic (1939) and current (2010) extents of oak ecosystems larger than one acre in size. More…
County Forest Preserve and Conservation Districts

Forest Preserves and Conservation District Lands

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

2014-2015 Location/extent of protected lands and waters managed by the County Forest Preserve Districts and the McHenry County Conservation District.
IDNR Biologically Significant Streams 2008 Stream segments with high species richness and/or biological integrity. More…
INHS Landscapes of Ecological Importance 2012 Ecological assessment of forests, grasslands, and wetlands based on criteria such as patch size, remoteness from roads, and soil characteristics. More…
FEMA Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) floodplains Various Location/extent of FEMA 100 and 500 year floodplains.
NRCS Gridded Soil Survey Data (SSURGO) 2015 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.
INHS Pre-settlement vegetation 2002 Pre-settlement land cover mapped by PLSS surveyors from 1804 to 1843.
Oregon State PRISM Climate Group Historic Monthly/Annual Temperature and Precipitation 1895-2010 Gridded 30-year normals (AKA average conditions) for climate variables such as precipitation and min/max temperature.
NCAR Projected Monthly/Annual Temperature and Precipitation 2050-2099 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.

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