Green Infrastructure Lead

Green Infrastructure

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. 

Introduction to Green Infrastructure

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.

Regional Data

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. 

Regional Policy

All agencies and organizations involved in conservation or urban development have a role to play in preserving green infrastructure. ON TO 2050 recommends integrating land preservation into strategic growth efforts and maintaining and investing in green infrastructure. As part of the ON TO 2050 development process, CMAP created the Lands in Transition strategy paper. It describes strategies to strengthen natural land protection and stewardship across the region and prioritize resource considerations in development decision. Previously, CMAP and partners 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 Environment chapter of ON TO 2050 strongly recommends a shift toward the use of green infrastructure. Selected resources include:

  • Integrating Green Infrastructure. This ON TO 2050 strategy paper describes policies CMAP and partners can pursue to protect ecological cores, encourage green infrastructure in community-scale green spaces, green hardscapes, and account for co-benefits.
  • 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.    
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