Portland, Ore – The Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI), a public-private partnership focusing on salmon habitat restoration in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, released its first economic data today on job creation figures and total economic output of restoration work in the five-county Rogue River basin. According to data the group compiled from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, a total of 1,020 jobs have been created by restoration projects in the Rogue River Basin’s five-county area between 2000–2009, and an investment of $64.3 million in 2,350 restoration projects generated an estimated $113.7 to $141.1 million dollars in economic output.
“Restoration activities create local, living-wage jobs in rural communities hit hard by the economic downturn,” said Cathy Kellon, Director of Water and Watershed Programs at Ecotrust, “And, unlike in many other sectors of our economy, restoration jobs can’t be outsourced to far-off places.” The Rogue restoration projects have created jobs for construction workers, technical experts such as engineers and wildlife biologists, as well as for supporting industries such as plant nurseries, heavy equipment companies, rock and gravel companies, and other area businesses. Compared with similar employment sectors such as transportation, up to 5 times more jobs are created for every million dollars invested in habitat restoration.
The economic benefits of restoration projects were presented today on a tour of in-progress restoration sites in the Rogue Basin for lawmakers, local businesses, and local community members. The tour offered a first-hand look at three restoration projects within the Rogue River Watershed — Little Butte Creek, Gold Ray Dam, and Bear Creek.
“Clean water, clean air, diversity of fish and wildlife all depend on healthy watersheds. As the restoration economy blossoms, the value of our investments are starting to be recognized in local communities across the state for its economic impact and benefits,” said Tom Byler, Executive Director, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. An average of 90 cents of every dollar spent on restoration stays in the state of Oregon, and 80 cents of every dollar spent stays in the county where a project is located. For example, of the nearly $400,000 invested in the rehabilitation of Little Butte Creek from 2009–2011, 72% was spent in Jackson County, and 97% was expended in Oregon. And, over half of those dollars went to salaries that directly benefit Oregonians
Jobs and local spending are not all that the restoration economy offers. Resulting improvements in habitat function and fish and wildlife populations provide recreational and commercial opportunities as well as ecosystem services that are fundamental to our health, productivity, and quality of life,” said Kellon. Sport and commercial fishing for Rogue River salmon and steelhead are already big business in the region — over $16 million are spent annually on sport fishing on the Rogue, and $1.4 million on commercial fishing. Habitat improvements intended to bolster fish runs promise to only increase sport and commercial fishing opportunities in the coming years.
The early results on the economic impact of restoration projects comes as a number of other dam removal and watershed restoration projects are just getting underway in the Pacific Northwest, including the Elwha and Condit, and as the draft Environmental Impact Statement on Klamath dams is released later this week.
The Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI) is a public-private competitive grant program that focuses on salmon habitat restoration efforts in areas of high ecological importance in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The WWRI partners work together in order to bring new restoration funding to select watersheds where there is strong community support, effective collaboration, and high ecological value, so that measurable and sustainable recovery can be achieved faster than when efforts are spread thinly across the landscape.
Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $500 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms and children’s health, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it honors and supports the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership in its work.