A new report has found South Slough National Estuarine and Research Reserve, a protected natural area and center for coastal research, education and training in Coos Bay, contributes significantly to Oregon’s coastal economy.
The report, commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, examined how spending by South Slough Reserve and its visitors ripples through the local economy. Analyses found the reserve contributes more than $6.1 million in revenue annually to Coos County and supports about 65 jobs, bolstering economic resilience.
The reserve attracts funds to the region, which are spent within the community, supporting local industries. Nearly 70 percent of the reserve’s revenue comes from federal, state and research grants; in 2020, grants totaled nearly $1 million. The reserve’s spending directly and indirectly supports jobs within the community. The funds invested in local goods and services, like research equipment and construction for on-site improvements, support the employees at those businesses who in turn spend locally. The study found the reserve’s expenditures support over 56 jobs, including its 18 staff, and inject $5.3 million into the Coos County economy.
Visitors to the reserve also bring additional economic benefits to the area. South Slough Reserve and partners like Friends of South Slough Reserve, Inc., the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and ecotourism company, South Coast Tours, help bring about 10,000 people to the reserve every year. Visitor spending on food, lodging and retail generates an estimated $850,000 for the area, supporting nearly 10 additional jobs.
While the report captured the flow of revenue in and out of the reserve, calculations did not include the additional economic benefits resulting from reserve activities that monitor and manage waterways, wetlands and forests connected to the Coos Bay area. Healthy coastal ecosystems support fisheries by feeding, sheltering and acting as a nursery for oysters, salmon and Dungeness crabs. The reserve also conducts research to inform land use planning and sustainable development, such as mapping projected sea level rise. Additionally, reserve wetlands help shelter the community from storms, which can cause millions of dollars in property damage.
“Healthy estuaries benefit the people who live around them,” said Bree Yednock, manager of South Slough Reserve. “Calculating a value for the numerous ecological benefits of having a nearby reserve can be a challenge, but this report brings greater understanding of South Slough Reserve’s economic contribution to the surrounding community.”