Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
Lehigh Valley Return on Environment Outreach
Teresa Mackey, Senior Environmental Planner
The Lehigh Valley Return on Environment (ROE) study was completed in 2014 with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities grant program. The purpose for the study was to create conservation leverage, showing that through open space preservation, quality of life can be improved while saving tax dollars and growing the economy. The valuation of open space features will also help prioritize natural areas for conservation.
The analyses identified the following economic benefits:
$356 million annually from natural system services, such as water supply, flood control, pollination + habitat services provided by natural areas such as wetlands, riparian corridors + forests;
$54 million annually in avoided healthcare costs and damage to agriculture and buildings by trees removing pollutants from the air;
$796 million annually from outdoor recreation expenditures and indirect impacts, such as supporting 9,600 jobs;
$14,600 average premium afforded each home within ¼ mile of protected open space.
Other key findings documented during the ROE study:
Wetlands provide by far the largest economic
value of natural system services on a per acre
basis—about four-and-one-half times the next
largest value for riparian areas, and nearly
twice all other land cover types combined.
25% of all tourism in the Lehigh Valley
comes from recreation—the highest rate in
75% of people in the Lehigh Valley enjoy
66% of Pennsylvania’s rare, threatened +
endangered species depend on wetland +
Contact with nature has great health
advantages like reduced stress + lower
In 2015, outreach was conducted about the ROE study, with partial funding provided by the Lehigh Valley Greenways mini-grant program. The outreach included slide presentations, event signage and fact sheets and was presented at meetings and events to various groups, organizations and the general public in the region and statewide.
The information was well received at the local and state level, and positive comments, including inquiries about the full report, received from audience members demonstrate the success of the study. The broad impact of the information makes it very appealing to many different sectors. Overall the project reached over 1,600 people statewide.
The ROE report is available on the LVPC website http://www.lvpc.org/return-on-environment.html
For more information on this project, contact Teresa Mackey at (610) 264-4544.