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U.S. Forest Service

Watershed Restoration Program Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is improving watershed condition important?

    There are many benefits and services provided by healthy watersheds including production of clean, abundant water, aquatic species conservation, quality recreational experiences, economic opportunities and cultural sustenance.

    Healthy watersheds provide habitat for fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Intact stream corridors provide a key connection across the landscape for animals and birds. There are also economic benefits. Healthy watersheds preserve quality recreation opportunities such as fishing and water-related recreation (e.g. boating) and contribute to tourism (e.g., hiking and birding). Vulnerability to floods, fires, and other natural disasters is minimized, reducing risks and costs to communities. NFS watersheds are the source of nearly one-fifth of the nation’s drinking water supply and over 50% of the water supply in the West. Maintaining watersheds that are in good condition and restoring those that are degraded, results in substantially lower costs for providing drinking water.

  2. Why does the Forest Service invest any restoration dollars in a watershed that is “functioning”?

    Maintaining healthy watersheds is as important, if not more so, than restoring degraded watersheds. There may be one or several indicators in a functioning watershed that scored low because there are past land management impacts or current stressors. In order to ensure that a watershed stays healthy or becomes more resilient, it may be necessary to invest restoration dollars to restore all natural functions and to make sure that the watershed does not become degraded in the future. It is much more cost-effective to use some resources to keep a watershed functioning, than it is to try to restore a variety of natural functions of a degraded watershed. Investing some money now to make a watershed as healthy and resilient as possible is a smart long-term investment, particularly in the face of the increasing stresses that our landscapes will be facing under a changing climate