Traditional measurements of success in stream and river restoration, such as numbers of acres treated or stream miles improved, don’t tell the whole story. While they’re valuable indicators of results from all the tree planting, culvert replacement, and stream channel opening that goes on in restoration, they don’t highlight the important socioeconomic impacts that these projects deliver in communities — especially rural ones where a few extra jobs go along way.
At the recent River Rally hosted in Portland, OR, we highlighted a new case study we conducted on restoration projects completed in the southern Oregon counties of Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine over the ten year period 2000-2009. In summary, we found that expenditures of approximately $54 million dollars likely contributed an estimated $97 million to $126 million of economic output and supported an estimated 616 to 865 jobs.
Previous studies in Oregon have shown that the majority of benefits from restoration occur locally, with approximately 80 cents of every dollar in project expenditures remaining within the county, and 90 cents out of every dollar of expenditures remaining within the state of Oregon.
Oregon is fortunate to have significant funds going towards watershed restoration every year under the Oregon Plan and ballot measures that have appropriated lottery revenues to restoration activities resulting in hundreds of millions of state, federal, and private funds spent on restoration so far. And the University of Oregon Ecosystem Workforce Program has undertaken extensive work tracking Oregon’s restoration economy. They’ve found that each restoration investment of $1 million can support 19 jobs on average, and upwards of 24 jobs for labor intensive restoration work such as native planting and invasives eradication. And what’s more, other studies have found even more encouraging numbers, with employment effects of restoration investments well surpassing those observed for other sectors.
In this election year, you’ll hear plenty of job creation estimates of various sorts put on the table. In Oregon, at least, we’re finding the gains from restoration work are real.