Wyden Introduces Bill to Improve Watershed Resilience and Health

Bill comes as Oregon and the entire American West faces worsening extreme heat and drought, hurting that nation’s agriculture, conservation and water systems

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced a bill to improve the resilience and health of the nation’s watersheds – the land leading into streams, rivers or lakes. Watersheds play an essential role in the health and economic livelihood of local communities, supporting safe drinking water for communities, outdoor recreation and productive fisheries.

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,” Wyden said. “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.”

Watersheds are made up of millions of acres of rivers and streams, farms and rangeland, forests and developed towns and cities, with restoration needs often varying dramatically from acre to acre. The Watershed Results Act would use the best scientific and data analysis to identify the most effective acres where watershed restoration work would generate the greatest environmental results at the best value for taxpayers. The Interior Department, Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency would coordinate to establish several watershed restoration programs across the country.

Joe Whitworth, President and CEO of The Freshwater Trust: “The dire and worsening problems impacting our rivers and streams have a direct impact on the future of freshwater in our country. 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.”  

 Julie O’Shea, Executive Director of Farmer’s Conservation Alliance: “We commend Senator Wyden for his introduction of this legislation. In the worst drought in recent history, it is important that we have in place a broad array of tools that help to increase agricultural resilience and environmental benefits throughout the West. These pilot projects would allow us to better understand how we can all collaborate to secure resiliency for our watersheds.”

 Dan Keppen, Executive Director of Family Farm Alliance: “Farmers play a critical role in ensuring the resiliency of our watersheds. We are supportive of this legislation because in 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.”  

 Roger Wolf, Director of the Iowa Soybean Association: “The proposed Watershed Results Act of 2021 reinforces cross agency coordination, watershed planning using advance analytics, modernizing and innovating financing mechanisms to deliver outcomes important to farmers and downstream communities. The watershed pilots will provide important learnings key for maturing our ability to meet future water management challenges. “

Timothy Male, Executive Director of Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC): “Two of the most important ways to make national environmental programs more effective are captured in Senator Wyden’s legislation: a focus on quantified environmental outcomes, and permission for federal agencies to use pay for success contracts to buy them. The Watershed Results Act puts in place the right incentives for America’s restoration experts and scientists to do their most effective and creative work for freshwater.”

Nick Wobbrock, Co-Founder & COO of Blue Forest Conservation: “The need for investment in watershed health to effectively respond to the impacts of climate change is non-negotiable. This bill offers an innovative model that will enable federal agencies the flexibility of leveraging private investment and conservation finance to achieve watershed resilience goals through quantified and monitored outcomes. We applaud Senator Wyden for introducing the Watershed Results Act.”

Adam Kiel, Managing Director of Soil and Water Outcomes Fund and Executive Vice President of AgOutcomes: “The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund works with farmers and outcome beneficiaries across ten states, from Iowa to New York, to improve water quality and climate resiliency. The proposed Watershed Results Act of 2021 supports an outcome-based approach to water quality improvement and, if passed, would represent a transformative approach in how the Federal Government funds environmental outcomes by providing cost-effective delivery of conservation dollars to areas providing the highest benefit.”

Sara LaBorde, Executive Vice President, Wild Salmon Center: “Clean water is the foundation of our healthy wild salmon runs and our thriving communities. We’re proud to support Sen. Wyden’s bill to accelerate the work to achieve meaningful and measurable clean water results for rivers and wild salmon.”

A copy of the bill text is here.

A one-page summary on the bill is here.

A web version of this release is here.