Model to identify green strategies in Lake County


The Lake County Forest Preserve District has commissioned a data-driven model to better identify opportunities for large-scale restoration projects and other measures.

The forest district board on Tuesday authorized a $90,000 contract with The Conservation Fund to develop a green infrastructure model and strategy to guide planning efforts in Lake County and adjacent lands. The effort would be Geographical Information System-based and is intended to provide a single source of information to help determine what projects would provide the biggest bang for the buck.

"It's sort of a decision making tool," explained Jim Anderson, the district's director of natural resources. "One of the goals in our 100-year vision is to do data-driven conservation and that's what this will enable us to do."

The project is intended to refine and add data to other efforts involving characteristics such as bird populations, flood plains or threatened and endangered species, for example, he added.

Goals of the project include identifying three, 10,000-acre ecological complexes, as well as areas for large-scale restoration projects, Lake Michigan ecological resources and ways to improve water resources.

The model also will allow the district and various organizations, communities or other partners to collaborate on protecting important natural resources and provide tools for site-specific strategies to connect natural resources, according to the district.

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Part of the work will be to gather and organize data to identify the existing "green infrastructure network" in as fine detail as possible. The Conservation Fund will make assessments in several areas including: three, 10,000-acre ecological complexes; water resource capabilities and water recharge areas; potential woodland, wetland and prairie opportunity areas; and, Lake Michigan ravine and other opportunities.

"This is not envisioning that the forest preserve (district) would own those three, 10,000-acre complexes," said Ann Maine, forest board president. "It's working with partners and communities saying, `This is a good area.'"

Anderson said the model could provide a framework for what should be done in the future and allow the district to begin searching for funding sources.

"From our point of view, it's where can we restore the biggest landscape in the next five years. What would be the priorities for us?" he said.

The project is expected to be completed by January 2016.


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