An evaluation of the effectiveness of restoration spending in the Columbia River Basin
July 2021 - August 2023
The decline in salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin has been well documented, as have the decades-long, $9 billion restoration spending efforts by federal and state agencies. These efforts are mainly tied to Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandates for recovery of wild, naturally-spawning threatened or endangered fish species. The impact of these efforts remains poorly understood; many observers, including the federal courts, have long been concerned by the lack of evidence of recovery. Most studies evaluating restoration efforts have examined individual projects for specific species, reaches, or life stages, which limits the ability to make broad inferences at the basin level. This project involves researchers from Oregon State University. We are using historical information on fish abundance and associated restoration spending to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration activities in restoring ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. This information will be useful to regional management agencies in determining how best to spend limited recovery resources.