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Enhancing Health and Well-Being via the Built Environment: Investing in Green Schoolyards

January 31, 2020

This brief describes the multiple co-benefits of green schoolyards for communities; provides a case study of the Space to Grow model; and offers practical suggestions to policymakers and advocates interested in beginning, expanding and making the case for a green schoolyard initiative.

Green Schoolyards: A Growing Movement Supporting Health, Education, and Connection with Nature

March 21, 2016

In May 2015, a national summit convened in Chicago to take an in-depth look at green schoolyards. At this summit, practitioners, advocates, researchers and others shared their knowledge and experiences and explored innovative approaches for advancing green schoolyards. This report shares the collective experience and knowledge of the participants and explores some of these new and emerging opportunities.Successful green schoolyard programs in six cities across the country are examined in case studies in this report. These studies distill important factors that helped to determine project success, including diverse partnerships and funding mechanisms, carefully leveraged policy at every level and documented impact that wins support.

Forest Preserve and Conservation Districts in Northeastern Illinois: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century

April 1, 2006

Forest Preserve and Conservation Districts in Northeastern Illinois: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century is the result of a two-year study undertaken by Openlands and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The report highlights the underlying importance of land preservation in the region, noting the overall success in land acquisition and restoration achieved by the six forest preserve districts and one conservation district in the seven-county area. These county-based land preservation districts play a key role as they own 170,000 acres of preserved land in the region. Forest preserves and conservation areas are important sites for public education and recreation for a population of more than 8 million people. The future presents significant challenges including growth, increased development and the rising cost of land. Continued protection of open space will require significant efforts from the forest preserve and conservation districts. The study looks analytically at each district, reporting issues, findings and recommendations that focus on governance as well as eight areas of operation including: land acquisition; land sales, transfers and encroachments; land management and restoration; recreation; golf courses; educational programs; law enforcement; and financial management.

Troubled Waters: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois

January 1, 2006

Careful planning and management of our water resources is critical to ensuring supplies of clean water at a reasonable cost in the future. Illinois lies adjacent to one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water, Lake Michigan, and has seemingly endless groundwater and surface water. However, parts of Illinois face the same dilemma as states in the west and southwest -- projected water shortages by the year 2020 because of ever-increasing demands for water, combined with legal and physical constraints. The amount or quantity of water that exists in Illinois depends on four factors: water availability, water demand, the supply from existing delivery systems and actual use. While water availability is generally more than adequate to meet future demand, growth in population, the economy and in energy consumption are leading to projected water shortages in some areas. This policy brief advocates for protection of Illinois' water supply through sustainable development practices combined with improved water planning and increased public awareness. It describes current water demands in Illinois and the sources of water supply. It also outlines the considerable challenges to meeting current and future demands, as well as actions to ensure adequate water availability in both quantity and quality for future generations.

Changing Course: Recommendations for Balancing Regional Growth and Water Resources in Northeastern Illinois

December 1, 2004

In this new era of global environmental concerns and economic competition between the world's metropolitan areas, basic questions about the sustainability of the greater Chicago region must be considered. Foremost among these concerns are the increasing pressures on the supplies of two of our most vital and interrelated resources -- land and water. Factors like the amount of open space, density of new development and intensity of farming practices greatly affect the quantity and quality of the region's water resources. Conversely, the quality and quantity of the region's lakes, streams and underground aquifers have a major influence on local land use decisions. Sustainable land use practices are essential to meet increasing demands for clean water. Although the quality of surface water in northeastern Illinois has improved in the past three decades, the supply remains limited by pollution from stormwater runoff, U.S. Supreme Court decisions capping the amount that can be drawn from Lake Michigan, steadily increasing urbanization of the region, inefficient water supply systems and unregulated groundwater withdrawals. To determine how to address these problems across a 12-county region in northeastern Illinois, the Joyce Foundation provided support to the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands, in partnership with the Campaign for Sensible Growth, to undertake a study to examine the relationship between development practices, land use, and water quality and quantity. This study addresses five areas: the state of the region's water resources; the state and federal policies that impact water; regional watershed planning efforts; local development practices and model ordinances; and techniques for reducing the impacts of urbanization on regional water resources.