Background image of Single salmon swimming along the shore of a still green lake

Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative

Supporting the restoration of streams and rivers for salmon and communities

We are teaming up with a network of public and private partners to give grants to on-the-ground community groups and tribes to restore ecologically important watersheds for Pacific salmon and steelhead.

This past year, Ecotrust helped fund salmon and steelhead habitat restoration work on the John Day River in eastern Oregon, the third longest undammed river in the lower 48 and the largest undammed tributary remaining in the mighty Columbia River basin.

Along its Middle Fork, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs are creating a diverse coalition of supporters and partners — including state and federal agencies, regional tribal government, and a local watershed council, among others — to strategically plan where to work and what projects to undertake. Their efforts are transforming an historically dredged river back into one where the stream meanders across its floodplain and native fish thrive.

How the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative works

Healthy watersheds are good for people and salmon. They provide clean drinking water and clean air, which are the basis for long-term wellbeing. But we face over 100 years of environmental degradation, and it’s going to take time to undo the damage. In order to realize transformational successes sooner rather than later, we believe that we need to redouble our efforts in those places likeliest to mend and achieve whole watershed health.

At Ecotrust, we take a different approach to salmon habitat restoration than what’s been done in the past: We run a public-private competitive grant program that brings together funders around projects in Oregon and Washington watersheds with the greatest potential for recovering salmon — where there is strong community support, effective collaboration, and high ecological value.

By concentrating and coordinating resources in priority watersheds, we are able to achieve measurable, sustainable recovery faster than when projects are spread randomly across the landscape.

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and its partners look out at the dredge-mined valley bottom on the Middle Fork John Day River, where they are doing restoration work.
The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation will soon complete restoration along a mile of dredge-mined valley bottom on the Middle Fork John Day River.

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs’ project is one of more than 130 projects that our Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative has supported.

Every year, we award between $1 and $2 million in grant funds for work ranging from dam and culvert removal to re-establishing river flow patterns and riparian areas to road decommissioning. As a result, we have helped improve more than 4,600 acres and re-opened 456 miles of streams and rivers.

These projects engage local community members and create local living-wage jobs that stimulate rural economies.

“I think when they write this chapter of conservation, it will be one not of what iconic individuals did, like Leopold, or Pinchot, or Rachel Carson. It will be about what iconic groups did together.”

–Mary Wagner, Associate Chief, USDA Forest Service

“We’re building the long-term resilience here — preventing future flood damage and bank erosion on the river at the same time that we remove barriers for fish,” says Amy Charette, Watershed Restoration Coordinator for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. “And we’re creating diversity in the jobs market with new opportunities in restoration.”

Restoration work is an enduring investment that continues to accrue and pay out over generations — for people, fish, and wildlife.

“Being part of this work gives us hope for the long term,” Charette says.