Estimating the economic impacts of ecosystem restoration—Methods and case studies

Open-File Report 2016-1016
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program and Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program
By: , and 



Federal investments in ecosystem restoration projects protect Federal trusts, ensure public health and safety, and preserve and enhance essential ecosystem services. These investments also generate business activity and create jobs. It is important for restoration practitioners to be able to quantify the economic impacts of individual restoration projects in order to communicate the contribution of these activities to local and national stakeholders. This report provides a detailed description of the methods used to estimate economic impacts of case study projects and also provides suggestions, lessons learned, and trade-offs between potential analysis methods.

This analysis estimates the economic impacts of a wide variety of ecosystem restoration projects associated with U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) lands and programs. Specifically, the report provides estimated economic impacts for 21 DOI restoration projects associated with Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration cases and Bureau of Land Management lands. The study indicates that ecosystem restoration projects provide meaningful economic contributions to local economies and to broader regional and national economies, and, based on the case studies, we estimate that between 13 and 32 job-years4 and between $2.2 and $3.4 million in total economic output5 are contributed to the U.S. economy for every $1 million invested in ecosystem restoration. These results highlight the magnitude and variability in the economic impacts associated with ecosystem restoration projects and demonstrate how investments in ecosystem restoration support jobs and livelihoods, small businesses, and rural economies. In addition to providing improved information on the economic impacts of restoration, the case studies included with this report highlight DOI restoration efforts and tell personalized stories about each project and the communities that are positively affected by restoration activities. Individual case studies are provided in appendix 1 of this report and are available from an online database at

Suggested Citation

Cullinane Thomas, Catherine; Huber, Christopher; Skrabis, Kristin; and Sidon, Joshua, 2016, Estimating the economic impacts of ecosystem restoration—Methods and case studies: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1016, 98 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Overview of Economic Impact Analyses
  • Types of Economic Impacts Measured
  • Case Study Methods
  • Impact Analysis
  • Case Study Results
  • Transferring Economic Impact Estimates
  • Lessons Learned
  • An Alternative Modeling Approach—The Best-Fit Sector Method
  • Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Analyses
  • Appendix 1. Case Studies—The Economic Effects of 21 Ecosystem Restoration Projects
  • Appendix 2. The Project Summary Survey
  • Appendix 3. The Expenditure Survey
  • Appendix 4. IMPLAN Sector Crosswalk for Restoration Activities
  • Appendix 5. IMPLAN Sector Crosswalk for Restoration Expenditure Categories
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Estimating the economic impacts of ecosystem restoration—Methods and case studies
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1016
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161016
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description v, 98 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details