Restoration Economy survey paper published in PLoS ONE

Hot off the presses and open access is our paper assessing the size of the “Restoration Economy” – the ecological restoration industry – in the United States.

Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy

 Substantial attention has focused on the seemingly high costs of environmental regulations and public investments in ecological restoration.  Drawing particular scrutiny have been regulations or public programs that require ecosystem restoration, which is often required to offset some of the environmental impacts of certain types of development, agricultural practices, or other human activities.  For example, recent debates over important issues like domestic climate policy and the expansion of the US Clean Water Act have centered on the economic impacts of expanded restoration requirements.  Several industry-sponsored reports have suggested a strong negative impact on our economy and on job production.

However, this public debate has occurred in the absence of empirical research on the positive economic impacts of restoration at the national level.  What are the national-level economic and employment impacts resulting from environmental restoration, restoration-related conservation, and mitigation actions?  Recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yale University, and a private equity firm, conducted a national survey of businesses that participate in restoration work in order to answer this question.

Published in the prestigious academic journal, Public Library of Science – ONE, the researchers determined that the U.S. ecological restoration industry directly employs nearly 126,000 workers and generates $9.5 billion in economic output (sales) annually.  This means that restoration employs more people than all American iron and steel mills, and nearly as many as the motor vehicle manufacturing industry.  They found that these sales support an additional 95,000 jobs and $15 billion in economic output through indirect (business-to-business) linkages and increased household spending.  This means that – even without considering all of the economic benefits of ecological restoration (such as improved water or air quality, aesthetics, or recreation opportunities) – the ecological restoration industry has an annual overall economic impact of $24.8 billion.  The authors also estimated that this economic impact generates nearly $1.02 billion in yearly local and state taxes, and an additional $2.13 billion for federal coffers.