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

outdoor recreation

66% of Pennsylvania’s rare, threatened +

endangered species depend on wetland +

riparian habitats.

Contact with nature has great health

advantages like reduced stress + lower

blood pressure.


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.


  • Northampton County Open Space Plan Steering Committee
  • Appalachian Trail meeting
  • Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center speaker series
  • Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Annual Conference
  • Step Outdoors Lehigh Valley
  • Lehigh Valley Greenways Festival
  • Lehigh Valley Planning Awards
  • Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference
  • Lehigh Valley Greenways Legislative Breakfast
  • American Planning Association – PA Chapter Annual Conference
  • Western Lehigh/East Penn Chamber of Commerce
  • Northampton County Environmental Advisory Councils
  • Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Half-Marathon
  • United Way of the Lehigh Valley
  • Governor’s Advisory Board for Community Development

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.


Link to PDF of Article


Lehigh Valley Planning Commission

961 Marcon Boulevard - Suite 310

Allentown, PA 18109

Phone: (610) 264-4544

Toll Free: (888) 627-8808

Fax: (610) 264-2616