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The Business of Nature

Return on the Environment Report and Planning Tools for Berks County

What is the environment worth?

Understanding the often-overlooked economic value of natural resources is crucial in informing land use and conservation decisions. Return on Environment (ROE) evaluations convey the value of nature in economic terms, highlighting the important benefits natural areas provide and costs if lost.  Benefits range from providing habitat, purifying air, filtering water or absorbing runoff, thereby reducing associated costs. Moreover, natural areas and open space contribute significantly to the local economy through avenues such as outdoor recreation revenue, healthcare savings, and property value premiums. This information not only delineates the resources at stake and the benefits they confer but also outlines the challenges and opportunities in conservation efforts. Translating the value of nature into economic terms, provides insights into the full costs and benefits associated with conservation efforts. Ultimately, a comprehensive understanding of nature’s economic worth helps ensure the resources can be addressed through informed decision-making, ensuring the sustainable management and preservation of our natural heritage.

The Return on Environment video describes the significance of nature and why maintaining the benefits it provides is essential to maintaining the quality of life and a vibrant economy to Berks County.

The Business of Nature, Return on Environment (2023 addendum) describes the ROE evaluation process and findings.  The online Return on Environment collection also identifies conservation and restoration strategies along with resources (mapping and applications) that can be used to address the value of nature in land use and conservation decisions.

Conservation Planning Tools

The ROE Findings Application

An online application that provides data analytic tools & related mapping layers used to evaluate Return on Environment (ROE) Findings.

Using the ROE Findings map, decision makers and other conservation actors can evaluate the environment’s value (in annual ecosystem cost savings per acre) through easily interpretable color-coded ranges. Users can also visualize Berks County’s protected properties, riparian buffers, greenways, forests, and recommended actions, areas of value that should be prioritized for protection.

The Conservation Selector Application

An online application that identifies properties meeting conservation selection criteria.

The Conservation Selector map generates a list of Berks County properties based on the user’s selection of criteria. These selection criteria range from location and size, to its recommended action ranking and proximity (or inclusion) of certain land cover types or designations.

The Conservation Site Screener Application

An online application that provides tools to help efficiently identify and map conditions on a site or area of interest to help with preservation decisions. Includes report printing capabilities.

When a decision maker or conservation actor has a particular site or area in mind, the Conservation Site Selector map can be used to further evaluate this area in terms of its physical properties (land cover, soil characteristics, etc.,) and conservation value (public access, proximity to protected areas and greenways, ROE value, etc.,)