A Green Ribbon Landscape

Green Ribbon Landscapes are areas where large, native forests, stream sides, and grassland habitats connect with trails, parks and green, open space that provide the highest environmental health, biological diversity, and economic sustainability.

The Swatara Creek and land along it represent a Green Ribbon Landscape, providing an economic benefit of $71 million annually in natural system services such as water filtration, stormwater mitigation, and habitat, among others. Meanwhile, these natural system services compiled throughout Dauphin County’s portion of the Swatara Creek watershed provides an estimated $106 million in economic benefit.

Why Return on Environment (ROE) – Nature’s Intrinsic Value

Nature provides an abundance of benefits and essential services residents and businesses rely on such as clean water, stormwater management, and pollution removal, free of charge.  Additionally, natural areas and open space provide recreational opportunities that help residents maintain healthy lifestyles and support the local economy through tourism and related activities.

These benefits, however, are not limitless and can be lost or impaired due to development and other changes that alter natural areas (see Kittatinny Ridge ROE environmental challenges page).  To maintain benefits, avoid hazards and reduce costly expenses residents, organizations and communities have increasingly looked to maintaining natural areas as important local assets.   ROE evaluations provide valuable information useful to supporting many of these decisions and initiatives. 

Identifying the financial value of nature helps maintain benefits and services by making it easier to account for them in key decisions such as development evaluations, preserving open space, or maintaining a stream buffer.  ROE evaluations can be useful to property owners seeking to protect their land and control costs, business owners looking to protect investments, or community and regional leaders interested in preserving resources while maintaining a resilient economy. The information can be used to help maintain or preserve current services as well as highlight opportunities to restore or expand areas to increase benefits.

Understanding nature’s value helps decision-makers (landowners and community leaders) address the benefits and costs associated with these areas and their ability to provide services. Manada Conservancy uses information and tools from Return on Environment evaluations to help identify areas of greatest conservation need in the Swatara Greenway to help achieve its land protection mission. The interactive mapping tools, described below, are available to assist the public with similar decision-making tasks:

  • ROE Findings – Descriptions of information obtained from Return on Environment evaluations for areas within the Swatara Greenway. (To view the full Return on Environment technical report, click here. To view the Return On Environment booklet, click here.)
  • Landowner ROE Map – An online map showing Return On Environment values for areas and properties within the Swatara Creek watershed in Dauphin County.
  • ROE Findings Application – An online application that provides data analytic tools & related mapping layers that can be used to evaluate Return on Environment (ROE) findings in greater detail. 
  • Conservation Selector Application – An online application used to identify properties with the Swatara Creek watershed that meet defined criteria related to natural resources and preservation.
  • Conservation Site Screener Application – An online application that creates a preliminary site conditions report for locations within the Swatara Creek watershed in Dauphin County.

Funding for this project was provided by Audubon Mid-Atlantic through a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.