Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America released a report on the long-term economic benefits of restoring coastal ecosystems. The report finds that each dollar invested by taxpayers returns more than $15 in net economic benefits for three restoration projects funded in 2009 by stimulus grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
Healthy coastal ecosystems provide not just environmental benefits but critical social benefits as well. They filter pollution, buffer coasts against extreme weather, serve as nurseries that sustain fisheries, and support tourism, recreation, and the culture of coastal communities. However, we are losing wetlands in the United States at a rate of seven football fields an hour due to development, pollution, and sea-level rise.
“Investing in coastal restoration is good policy. It’s not just the right thing to do for the environment; it’s the right thing to do for coastal communities, vulnerable coastal populations, and the U.S. economy,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Our coastline represents the front line in the fight against climate change, and healthy, restored wetlands ecosystems are our best defense against the onslaught.”
The long-term payout of restored coastal ecosystems can help sustain local communities down the road; but there is also direct stimulus to these communities in the form of jobs. Previous research established that 1 million dollars invested in coastal restoration creates, on average, 17.1 jobs. For comparison, offshore oil and gas creates approximately 8.9 jobs per million dollars of investment. And in low-income coastal communities, these restoration jobs can be significant pathways out of poverty.
“Investing in coastal restoration projects is a great way to connect the dots in these vital and vulnerable areas of our country,” said Jeffrey Buchanan, Senior Domestic Policy Advisor at Oxfam America. “We can put people to work in jobs that offer decent pay and ladders of opportunity at the same time that we sustain local businesses, restore fisheries, provide protection against storm surges, and protect communities in danger of losing a culture and a way of life. It’s a win all around.”
By analyzing three locations around the country—Seaside Bays of Virginia’s Atlantic coast, Mobile Bay, Alabama, and South San Francisco Bay, California—CAP and Oxfam America found that investing in well-designed coastal restoration can be highly cost effective and generate economic activity for generations to come.
The report recommends various actions that the public and private sectors can take to increase our coastal resiliency, strengthen our communities and the economy, and restore degraded ecosystems:
Public- and private-sector entities should increase their investment in coastal restoration projects and fund ongoing monitoring of restored areas.
Congress should enact and fund the National Endowment for the Oceans to provide a steady revenue stream for restoration.
The state and federal agencies distributing funds related to the BP oil spill should invest in recovery projects that create employment and support long-term ecosystem recovery.
Federal, state, and local coastal planners should give greater weight to natural solutions such as wetland restoration to help protect at-risk developed areas.
The Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, and NOAA should work with the Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor to develop new pathways into crafts, trades, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, careers related to ecosystem restoration.
NOAA and its partners should seek funding to apply the evaluation techniques used in this report to the other ARRA coastal restoration projects in order to provide a stronger foundation for future coastal land-use decisions.