Ecosystem restoration boosts local, regional economies

By Lauren McDonald

©USFWS Pacific Region

Critical habitat restoration programs are doing more than just helping wildlife – they’re boosting economies.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey, ecological restoration programs, like sagebrush and post-wildfire recovery projects, are creating jobs and stimulating local businesses.

In the study, USGS economists reviewed 21 Department of the Interior restoration projects, and focused on the number of jobs created and local business activity generated during the duration of the project to quantify their economic impact.

The study found that on average, ecosystem restoration projects create between 13 and 32 part- and full-time jobs over their duration and contribute between $2.2 and $3.4 million to the economy for every $1 million spent on implementation.

The report states that this information can be used to inform public stakeholders of the socioeconomic value of ecological restoration projects, rather than just the importance of their implementation for natural resources.

Case Study: Burley Landscape Sage-Grouse Habitat Restoration 

Between 2008 and 2014, the Bureau of Land Management removed juniper trees, and planted perennial grasses and shrubs in Burley, Idaho to restore sage-grouse habitat and mitigate fire risk. The BLM worked with members of Idaho Department of Fish and Game to assist in project completion.

During the six-year project, 18 percent of all restoration costs were spent locally, and over $300,000 was produced in local labor income.

Case Study: Post-Wildfire Restoration in Southeast Oregon

In 2012, a wildfire burned over 558,000 acres of land in southeast Oregon, causing the invasion of early-successional noxious weeds. The BLM Vale District created a rehabilitation plan, which included the seeding of native and perennial gasses, as well as the treatment and monitoring of invasives.

The year-long restoration project contributed over $13 million to the western states’ economy, and yielded $5.3 million in labor income.

For a complete summary of all 21 case studies, see USGS’ website.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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