Federal salmon fund fuels restoration projects throughout region
The state of Oregon has secured $15 million for salmon habitat restoration projects throughout the state. The funding comes from the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund and is distributed by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB).
“The Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund is so critical to keeping habitat intact for salmon and steelhead that are on the brink of extinction. It protects places that give them the highest chance for survival. It’s this little-known federal fund, but it literally keeps Salmon nation going,” said Kelley Beamer from the Oregon Conservation Partnership. Beamer is also executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, a member of the partnership.
Since 2000, the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund has invested nearly $237 million in Oregon. It is leveraged with state Lottery dollars, bringing the total invested in salmon and steelhead habitat in Oregon in the last 20 years to $603 million. The funds are distributed in a competitive grant process via OWEB, Oregon’s agency that protects native fish and wildlife habitat.
For every $1 million spent on habitat restoration, 15-24 jobs are created in local economies. More than 90 cents of every dollar invested stays in those local – often rural – communities. The salmon recovery fund also supports the region’s recreational and commercial fishing industries, which offer more than 17,000 jobs.
The fund was started by Congress in 2000 to help restore salmon and steelhead populations listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently, 28 salmon and steelhead populations are protected under the ESA. However, due to investments over the last 20 years, including from the salmon recovery fund, Oregon Coast Coho Salmon, are well on the way to recovery.
In addition to benefitting salmon, these improvements help make our water drinkable and our rivers swimmable for all Oregonians. Watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts, land trusts, landowners and local communities plant trees, replace culverts with bridges, and restore estuaries and natural streambanks. This work improves water quality and reduces flood risk for local communities. Irrigators use the program to reduce their water use, which can also reduce their energy costs while putting more water back in streams for fish.
“Investing in salmon habitat restoration benefits Oregon and Oregonians – from east to west, north to south, rural to urban,” said Jan Lee of the Oregon Conservation Partnership. Lee is also acting executive director of the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts, a member of the partnership.