The Freshwater Trust Supports New Federal Bill to Focus Conservation on Outcomes

September 22, 2021

TFT applauds Senator Ron Wyden’s Watershed Results Act, Released Today 

PORTLAND, OR, September 22, 2021 – Today, the Freshwater Trust (TFT), a nonprofit freshwater conservation and restoration organization, announced its support of a federal bill introduced by US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will increase the efficiency and efficacy of water solutions nationwide.

“As the American West continues to face unprecedented heat waves and droughts due to the climate crisis, it’s more critical than ever to strengthen the health and resilience of our nation’s watersheds,” said Wyden. “Our watersheds support everything from our agricultural and conservation efforts, to clean drinking water and outdoor recreation. When watersheds suffer that undermines the safety of what Americans can eat, drink and do. My Watershed Results Act creates science-driven, cost-effective tools to protect the land that touches all of our nation’s waterways and provide stability for generations to come.”

The bill would provide the necessary financial and management tools to expedite and more effectively provide measurable environmental outcomes for watersheds through the greater use of analytics for prioritization of projects and increased streamlining and coordination of funding between federal agencies and among public and private stakeholders.

“The Freshwater Trust is grateful to Sen. Wyden for his leadership in proposing a truly innovative and groundbreaking approach to outcome based, partnership oriented, financially sound, watershed and sub-watershed management that is so desperately needed,” said Joe Whitworth, President and CEO of The Freshwater Trust. “Forty years in watershed work has taught us firsthand that a new way of thinking, indeed a new way of doing business, is critical if we are going to have a chance at securing resiliency for the watersheds that support life on this planet.”

Federal funding for water quality and quantity improvements nationwide is currently siloed, fragmented, and slow. This sector also largely operates without technology that could guarantee restoration and conservation projects are prioritized for maximum impact and deployed in coordination with other efforts.

The measure enables a cross-agency approach that relies on watershed-scale analytics to identify the most impactful combination of projects throughout a basin, and then leverages funding toward those projects through a streamlined process.

“The spending of tens of millions in federal funding in pursuit of uneven watershed improvements is a failure of government, especially at a time of rapid rates of degradation,” said Whitworth. “This bill will go a long way toward upending the status quo and driving toward tangible results, and at the necessary pace, for watersheds across the nation, while enhancing coordination, reliability, and transparency that is sorely lacking both across agencies and amongst the federal government, the private sector and local government partners.”

In addition to TFT, the legislation is supported by many other groups, including Blue Forest Conservation, Quantified Ventures, Ecosystem Investment Partners, Environmental Policy Innovation Center, Family Farm Alliance, Farmer’s Conservation Alliance, Iowa Soybean Association, Idaho Power Company, Wild Salmon Center, and the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund.

“The proposed act reinforces cross-agency coordination, watershed planning using advance analytics, modernizing and innovating financing mechanisms to deliver outcomes important to farmers and downstream communities,” said Roger Wolf, Director of the Iowa Soybean Association. “The watershed pilots will provide important learnings key for maturing our ability to meet future water management challenges.”

“Farmers play a critical role in ensuring the resiliency of our watersheds,” said Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance. “We are supportive of this legislation because it encourages collaboration among all those funding and working with and on behalf of water. Collaboration and innovation are both desperately needed if we are going to ensure that our freshwater resources can support the future of farming.”

TFT has long advocated for advancing the pace and scale of restoration and conservation by putting new technology, innovative financing mechanisms, and a laser focus on outcomes at the heart of watershed solutions – all outcomes of the Wyden bill. The organization has proven track record of having frequently piloted this approach on behalf of key Western watersheds and achieved quantified results in basins across the West for water quality and quantity, with impressive results.

In Southern Oregon’s Rogue basin, for instance, analytics have been employed to identify and prioritize what set of restoration projects will yield the greatest benefits for native fish habitat. Funding from various sources have been leveraged and deployed to support these fixes, and over the last decade, more than $20 million worth of work has been implemented.

“This is not just a theoretical exercise,” said Whitworth. “We’ve proven that the changes being called for now in this bill can work to the greater benefit of our watersheds.”

Senator Wyden’s bill will, if enacted, greatly enhance the rate and scale – at substantial cost savings – at which at such work can be successfully carried out.

“The dire and worsening problems impacting our rivers and streams have a direct impact on the future of freshwater in our country,” said Whitworth. “The urgency of this moment is unmistakable, and a bill like this lays the foundation for much-needed change on how those working in water work on behalf of this resource. We hope others will support it.”

About The Freshwater Trust

The Freshwater Trust is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to preserve and restore freshwater ecosystems. By focusing on solutions at the intersection of technology, social finance, and quantified restoration, it is one of the fastest growing organizations of its kind this century, doing work across the West. Its offices are in Oregon, Idaho and California. For more information, visit

#Energy and Natural Resources Committee    #policy    #watershed restoration