If we understand the impact, we can plan for the future.
The abundance of natural features and scenic open space areas help build the economy because the assets:
- Attract visitors and support numerous tourist-based recreational activities.
- Offer access to resources such as clean, abundant water supplies essential to business operations at relatively low costs (Beers, 2019).
- Provide opportunities for businesses to attract and retain employees who value healthy lifestyles because active employees are happier, more creative, more productive, and miss less work (Henderson, 2018).
The quality and quantity of resources available to businesses are critical to business function. Recreational opportunities available on open spaces benefit the workforce, translating into increased productivity and avoided medical expenses. The forested watersheds offer surface and groundwater resources for businesses, ensuring clean, filtered water to produce their products and to meet water-quality permit standards. To better appreciate the economic value of natural resources and open space to business, it is useful to consider operations in terms of reliance on, or connection with, resources.
Being in contact with nature motivates people to exercise and appears to boost the benefits of exercise. Greenery encourages exercise, provides a more restorative environment than indoor settings, and has a greater positive effect on mental health. Access to open space and recreation opportunities results in more physical activity and better health. Howard Frumkin and Richard Louv’s research on contact with nature suggests that children and adults benefit so much from contact with nature that land conservation can now be viewed as a public health strategy.
Several studies show that outdoor recreation plays a significant role in the lives of Americans. It provides physical challenges and a sense of well-being, helps develop lifelong skills, provokes interest and inquiry, inspires wonder and awe of the natural world, and provides an alternative to daily routines. Recreation contributes greatly to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of individuals while bonding family and friends.
Real Estate Premiums
How open space impacts housing values is captured by residents through higher sale values of homes near protected open space. This generates increased government revenues via larger property tax collections and greater transfer taxes at time of sale.
Studies completed for Dauphin, Lehigh, Carbon, and Northumberland Counties showed that the value of homes within ¼ mile of open space varied depending on the land use setting. Open space property value premiums increased as follows:
- Lake Front — 22%
- Urban Areas — 15%
- Suburban Areas — 10%
- Rural Areas — less than 1%
Connectivity: Green Ribbon Landscape
Landscape connectivity is one of the most important factors in maintaining biological diversity. Connectivity includes patches of forests and interconnected riparian and upland habitat corridors. Maintaining gene flow is essential for genetic fitness of species and allows for adaptation to environmental changes. This helps ensure sustainable breeding populations of plants and animals. Connectivity also provides migration corridors for a variety of plants, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and bird and animal species, providing resilience to climate change.
The most effective way to realize the full value of natural system services is to connect large, native forests and grassland habitats with riparian and upland green corridors. These landscape patterns are called Green Ribbon Landscapes (GRL). GRLs are the highest value ROE areas with natural habitat conditions, usually forested. They are the foundation for biological diversity to thrive. This pattern of landscape connectivity can potentially moderate some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation and severe weather conditions.
Restoring and maintaining landscape connectivity can influence expanding ROE and biological diversity. GRLs can be part of a voluntary program to help residents understand how they can contribute to enhancing community value by planting native vegetation and tree canopy. Natural system services can be reestablished and expanded along riparian corridors, surrounding parks, preserves, and forests. GRLs can be incentivized by providing free tree seedlings, reducing stormwater fees, and providing restoration grants.
Green Ribbon Landscapes:
- Can almost double avoided costs for natural system services.
- Maintain and improve water quality.
- Establish and improve wildlife habitat and migration corridors and greenways.
- Identify areas to expand ROE with tree canopy and native plants.
- Provide food and habitat and sustainable breeding populations of wildlife and birds.
- Enhance property value.
- Provide resilience to climate change.