Even if you are not concerned about healthy water, parks, or wildlife, you might still care about Oregon’s economy, and especially economic conditions locally.  And if you do, take a look at Ballot Measure 76.  

Consider its investment proposition:  Oregon gains between 16 and 24 jobs – overwhelmingly in the private sector – for every $1 million spent on restoration.  Some 90 percent of the money stays in-state, and each dollar generates an additional 1.7 to 2.6 times the amount of local economic activity as it cycles through the local economy.  

These numbers are not ginned-up campaign promises – these numbers have been confirmed by through a 2010 University of Oregon study examining the economic impact of actual lottery dollars spent on work to restore Oregon’s rivers, fish, forests, and wildlife habitat.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board allocated these dollars as part of the ballot measure Oregonians passed in 1998, which dedicated a fraction of state lottery dollars (15 percent) to habitat restoration and protection.  With Ballot Measure 76, voters have the choice of continuing this commitment, or turning their backs on a decade’s worth of added value to the environment as well as the economy. 

Many take pride in the national perception of Oregon’s land stewardship ethic.  Things like healthy waters, viable rural communities and nationally renowned parks are benefits that accrue to the public at large. But these assets dwindle without thoughtful public investment. When the public invests right, the private sector responds, benefiting the broader economy. 

Restoration involves people, business, and local communities, and it involves them in the form of jobs and purchases of supplies and materials to do those jobs.  

Local businesses like Steve Lindley Contracting out of La Grande could go under without the funding tied to this ballot measure. Groups like The Freshwater Trust have long done restoration work, but without these lottery dollars, would not have leveraged the millions in additional private and federal funds that have paid for work on the ground with landowners and local restoration professionals.  

Only by Oregon’s sustained and dedicated investment has the state been able to stand-up a community-based framework of watershed councils, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, local non-profit groups, and contractors that has become the envy of other places.  While landowners and local entities in the John Day like the Grant SWCD deserve the bulk of credit for stream restoration success to date, the funding to advance projects, local capacity, and jobs that together produce public restoration benefits depends upon investment of public funds like those tied to Oregon’s lottery.

Where Oregon may fall down on many societal issues, here’s one where we actually lead.   

We all talk about the need to replace environmental conflict with environmental and economic progress.  But in the brief decade since being brought into existence, Oregonians have actually demonstrated the model for moving forward. 

Oregon has kick-started a restoration economy, and as folks that have seen how Ballot Measure 76 funds work, we can tell you a “no” vote on this measure would eliminate a known driver of economic and environmental benefits at a time when Oregon’s economy and environment can least afford it. A “yes” vote would advance a model of on-the-ground environmental solutions that generate real economic benefit. 

That’s the spirit of 76.


Steve Lindley is owner of Steve Lindley Contracting in La Grande. He does restoration work across N.E. Oregon, including in the John Day Basin.

Joe Whitworth is president of The Freshwater Trust based in Portland.  TFT does projects across the state in partnership with landowners and local entities.


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