Up a Creek with a Paddle: Tourism and Land Conservation

Canoeing on the Lower Fox River, Photo Courtesy The Conservation Foundation


Tourism and land conservation might be seen by some as being at odds with each other. Yet, tourism and land conservation are mutually beneficial. Preserving land and water for the betterment of the environment and of the people helps create beautiful, healthy places where people want to visit. Tourism brings several economic benefits that can further land conservation efforts.



Tourism is generally considered travel that focuses on recreational, leisure, or business purposes. It is also a means for self-improvement — either for physical or psychological health or for increasing one’s knowledge of another culture or place. It is usually relaxing (though sometimes the act of getting from one place to another may not seem that way).


Tourism can be indoor or outdoor. Types of outdoor tourism are camping, RVing, glamping, canoeing, or just taking a walk. There is also ecotourism. According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”


Tourism can involve activities like NatureRx where one can positively affect one’s health by being outdoors. Interestingly, researchers have found that just visualizing a green scene (like strolling through a tree-lined forest) helped subjects drift off 50% faster and sleep more soundly. This mental imagery prompts the release of theta brain waves, which help you fall — and stay — asleep. That being said, it is still better to be a tourist in the actual outdoors.


How Land Conservation Benefits Tourism

There are many kinds of conservation including historical, heritage, and cultural conservation. And, of course, there is land conservation which helps with the preservation of land and water. The land and water are preserved for all. At a local level, there are neighborhood parks and private lands protected from development. At a grander level, there are the National Park Service and the National Forest Service. Some land is kept untouched. Others have some additions like paths, small parking lots, and visitor facilities.


People seek walking trails, greenery, opportunities for outdoor adventure, spaces to support mental health, and easy ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the go — conservation certainly plays a role in all of those. These are consumer trends that are not going away, only becoming more prominent each year. When you understand consumer behavior, you easily connect the dots between conservation and tourism. Conservation makes a destination more appealing, and the result is more visitors with visitor dollars driving a healthy economy.
DuPage County is very lucky to have multiple organizations protecting nature and conserving land, one being The Conservation Foundation. Discover DuPage has partnered with The Conservation Foundation for a number of years, acknowledging the important role they play in DuPage’s identity and the DuPage experience. As one of the healthiest destinations in Illinois with an abundance of outdoor assets that serve both the body and mind, DuPage County continues to deliver an enticing product to the consumer.
Beth Marchetti, Executive Director
DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau


People find this land and water attractive and want to visit. Unlike the “of the moment” aspect of much tourism, people appreciate the timelessness of nature and find it helps with putting things into proper perspective.


There are also associated benefits for the local economy. People who visit places will want to go to restaurants and enjoy other aspects of the area. Preserved land can also provide revenue and jobs from recreation and tourism. These come from direct revenues generated by products and services (e.g., sale of agricultural commodities like honey or expenditure by nature tourists), supply chain industries that support those products and services, and “downstream” economic activity as income is re-spent on other goods and services. In addition, governments could benefit from license revenue for fishing, hunting, and wildlife recreation. In 2018, the DuPage County Convention and Visitors Bureau did a brand exercise. One of the findings for DuPage’s brand was its excellent outdoor spaces which contributed to DuPage being ranked the healthiest county in Illinois. See the side bar for further comments about DuPage County.


How Tourism Benefits Land Conservation

Tourism is a world-wide business. Many countries depend on tourism for their economies. The relationship between tourism and land conservation is mutually beneficial. As previously discussed, people provide money to local businesses and governments through spending and taxes. These funds in turn can be used for obtaining additional lands for preservation as well as management of currently preserved land.


yoga at McDonald Farm

Outdoor Yoga Class, Photo Courtesy The Conservation Foundation


Perhaps, even more importantly, people appreciate land and water better when they physically experience it, either going somewhere new or revisiting a place to expand their experience. People in turn get inspired to preserve the outdoors for today and the future.


Ready to support land conservation and provide spaces for people to enjoy and benefit from activities like going up a creek with a paddle? Well, land conservation is what The Conservation Foundation does every day. We can all do more together than we can alone. Join our collective momentum — become a member today!


Feel free to comment on this blog with additional ideas you have on how land conservation provides economic benefits.


By Steve Stawarz, Oak Brook
DuPage County Advisory Council Member


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