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Restoration Means Jobs in Central Idaho

Posted by Renee Magyar on October 3, 2014

A new report showing forest and stream restoration leads to new jobs and family wages.

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PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT: Gina Knudson, Salmon Valley Stewardship, 208- 756-1686

Report: Natural Resource Restoration Brings Jobs, Dollars to Central Idaho

SALMON, ID  — Projects aimed at improving native fish habitat, forest health and reclaiming closed mines in Central Idaho are paying off with benefits for the land and jobs and wages for local families.

That’s the bottom line of a report recently released by the grassroots organizations Salmon Valley Stewardship and Sustainable Northwest.

That report examined more than 100 environmental restoration projects in Custer and Lemhi Counties between 2008-2013. Those projects contributed more than $17 million in economic activity for the the local, private workforce during that 6-year period. Projects included efforts to restore streams for salmon and steelhead, thin overgrown segments of national forests, and control weeds. 

That number does not include additional benefits in the form of jobs in federal and state land management agencies.

“The dollars circulated locally from these projects are a huge boost to family incomes, local business income, and the local tax base,” said Tammy Stringham, director of Lemhi County Economic Development Association. “That adds up to a very welcome booster shot for our local economy.”

The total price tag for the 100-plus projects in the study was nearly $40 million. That suggests there is potential for growth for local businesses.

Stringham said her organization has been  working to develop forestry related businesses that can engage in forest restoration projects and in training a more robust local workforce.  

“There’s still a lot of dollars going out of the community, and we would like to see them stay here and create more jobs,” she said.

The report is titled Restoration Means Jobs in The Upper Salmon River Region.  Salmon Valley Stewardship and the Oregon-based group, Sustainable Northwest compiled the report with funding from USDA Rural Development. The report is available online.

One example of a local family that benefited from this work is Boyd and Jill Foster, of Leadore. Boyd Foster has used his heavy equipment operator skills on several stream restoration projects in the Upper Salmon, most recently up the Yankee Fork near Stanley. 

This kind of work has allowed the Fosters to remain in Leadore, population 100. The Fosters’ two children attend Leadore schools, which is the smallest K-12 school in Idaho. Jill teaches there part-time.

“Restoration projects are an important piece of the economic puzzle for local small businesses,” said Gina Knudson director of Salmon Valley Stewardship. “These are big numbers, but the truth is that even small contracts have a significant impact to our rural communities. Every student who stays in a small school matters tremendously. Better yet, this kind of economic activity can go hand-in-hand with traditional jobs, such as ranching and mining.”

The report also looked at 14 conservation easements on Custer and Lemhi County private ranches. Most of the $19 million spent on conservation easements stayed in the area, benefitting ranching families and local and regional workers who provided technical services such as surveying for the easements. 

Knudson said the report focused on direct, private workforce benefit and did not examine dollars directed toward state or federal agency employees. Nor did it tackle “ripple effects” that the projects mean for local spending, improving fishing opportunities or other economic impacts of the work.

“Restoration work clearly benefits a wide range of local businesses, from agriculture to retail trade,” said Ben Alexander, of Montana-based Headwaters Economics. Alexander did look at the larger, indirect effects and concluded, “Components of the restoration industry are about half as large as the manufacturing sector and slightly larger than wholesale trade sectors in Custer and Lemhi Counties.”

John Audley, president of Sustainable Northwest, said, “"There is solid evidence that forest and rangeland restoration projects in the West help reduce the spread of invasive species, make wildland fire more manageable, and improve habitat, and air and water quality for wildlife and people. There is a clear need to increase the pace and scale of restoration for these environmental benefits, and this report shows the work makes strong economic sense as well for a region that struggles with low income and high unemployment."

The complete report is available at http://www.salmonvalley.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Restoration-Means-Jobs-in-the-Upper-Salmon-River-Region-2014-FINAL.pdf

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