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October 24, 2011

Restoration Creates Jobs: What's Good for Nature is Good for the Economy

The research is in: habitat restoration creates jobs. In fact, a recent report shows that coastal habitat restoration produces jobs at higher rates than other sectors, like oil and gas and road infrastructure. Every $1 million dollars spent on coastal restoration projects results in 15 new or sustained jobs, according to a 2009 report by the University of Oregon.

To support the jobs effort, President Obama announced last week that he is fast-tracking infrastructure projects—including habitat restoration efforts supported by the NOAA Restoration Center. The goal is to streamline the federal review process so that these projects move as quickly as possible from the drawing board to completion.

The efforts supported by the Restoration Center will restore estuaries and provide habitat for threatened and endangered salmon species.

One of these projects is the Qwuloolt estuary restoration project in Washington state. The word “Qwoloolt” (pronounced “kwa-loot”) means “large marsh” in Lushootseed, the language spoken by local Indian tribes. The Qwuloolt Estuary was cleared and drained in the early 20th century to create farmland. Levees and dikes were built, which cut off the area from tidal flow. This meant that most of the wetlands in the area—crucial habitat for growing salmon—were lost.

Working with federal, state, Tribal, and local partners, we acquired land and are now working to remove the old levees. This will allow the Qwuloolt marsh restoration project to be reconnected to Ebey Slough, which is part of the Snohomish River estuary. Water will flow back in, restoring a full 350 acres of marsh—creating habitat for five species of salmon. It will also provide unrestricted access to 16 miles of upstream habitat for fish like Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The project also supports a number of different jobs, from project managers, to equipment operators, to surveyors, to ecologists. Fast-tracking habitat restoration projects like this one will create and sustain many jobs while benefiting fish and wildlife along our coasts.