WASHINGTON–A landmark report released today by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) shows that coasts and estuaries are not only essential to the nation’s economy, but that investments in coastal habitat restoration produce jobs in a cash-strapped, job-starved economy at a higher rate than many other sectors, including oil and gas, road-infrastructure, and green building projects.
The report, “Jobs & Dollars: Big Returns from Coastal Habitat Restoration,” lays out a powerful case for government and private investment in the nation’s coasts and estuaries, drawing on national and regional studies of coastal and estuarine restoration projects and setting out its findings in restoration case studies.
Among “Jobs and Dollars” key findings:
Coastal habitat restoration–including wetland reconstruction and improvement; rebuilding depleted oyster beds; removal of obsolete dams, culverts, and other obstacles to fish passage; tree planting and floodplain restoration; and invasive species removal–typically create between 20 and 32 jobs for every $1 million invested. In comparison, road infrastructure projects on average create seven jobs per million, oil and gas return just five jobs, and green building retrofits produce 17 jobs per $1 million invested.
Habitat restoration not only creates local jobs, it brings dollar to local businesses. In one of the report’s case studies, a watershed restoration project in Oregon, 80% of monies invested in the project stayed in county; 90% stayed in state.
Restoration not only creates direct jobs, people using their skills and equipment to restore damaged wetlands and other similar projects, but also helps stimulate indirect jobs in industries that supply project materials such as lumber, concrete, and plant materials, and supports induced jobs in businesses that provide local goods and services, such as clothing and food, to restoration workers.
Finally, restoration projects are a sure bet, boasting enviable returns on investment to local and regional economies in the form of new jobs, increased tourism and tourist dollars, hunting and fishing revenues, tax revenues, and property values.
“Investing to restore our nation’s bays and estuaries is a win-win-win situation. It’s good for the environment, creates jobs, and it boosts sagging local economies,” said Jeff Benoit, President and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries.
How valuable are our coasts and estuaries?
While coastal-estuarine counties make up only 13% of the U.S. land area, they generate half the nation’s GDP, and provide 40% of all American employment. More than three-quarters of all U.S. trade-some $850 billion total-passes through U.S. ports annually. Further, over 75% of all commercial fishing, 80-90% of recreational fishing, and 85% of waterfowl and migratory birds depend on estuaries. Combined, the hunting and fishing industry alone generates $80 billion a year.
But despite their obvious value, both ecologically and economically, America’s coasts and estuaries are in trouble. Historic losses alone are staggering. The report documents that 97% of Columbia River salmon are gone. Likewise, 95% of all San Francisco Bay wetlands have vanished, sacrificed to development and commerce. The once great Chesapeake Bay oyster is down to one percent of historic levels. Half of the Great Lakes wetlands are gone.
Louisiana’s wetlands are in a class by themselves. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are receding at an astounding rate of one football field an hour. Loss of the state’s wetlands not only threatens lucrative industries like shrimping and crabbing, but also puts 45% of our national oil and gas refining capacity, and 43% of our strategic petroleum reserves at risk, as well.
“It is critical for our nation to invest in coastal habitat restoration,” said Benoit. “Not only to address many of these problems, but to provide jobs for out-of-work commercial fishermen, work for marinas and boat captains and barge operators, and commerce for seaside businesses, ranging from bait and tackle shops to hotels and restaurants.”
Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving our nation’s estuaries. RAE members include: American Littoral Society, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Conservation Law Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Galveston Bay Foundation, North Carolina Coastal Federation, People For Puget Sound, Save The Bay-Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay-San Francisco, Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Tampa Bay Watch.