Willamette Partnership is grounded in results and rooted in a commitment to place. Our history is an important part of who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

The early years (1996-2003)

In 1996, Willamette Basin Task Force formed to develop coordinated and effective protection and restoration of the Willamette River Basin.

The Willamette Restoration Initiative emerged from the Task Force as an ongoing, basin-wide organization. Its task was to create the 2001 Willamette Restoration Strategy, an integrated approach to addressing water quality, flooding, fish, and wildlife habitat issues and the overall watershed health of the Willamette Basin.

Emerging ecosystem markets (2004-2009)

From the Willamette Restoration Initiative, Willamette Partnership was founded as a non-profit coalition of conservation, city, business, farm, and scientific leaders in 2004. The coalition’s purpose was to develop innovative, market-based tools to deliver broad conservation benefits at lower costs and with reduced conflict. Early work on developing these tools was supported by a Targeted Watershed Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build a water quality trading program.

In 2007, a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service allowed the Partnership to build a more integrated market-based approach that crossed traditional resource “silos.” The Counting on the Environment process developed tools for land managers and regulators to evaluate the outcomes of restoration work and participate in emerging markets for water quality improvements, wetland restoration, and upland habitat conservation.

Stepping out (2009-)

As the Partnership’s Counting on the Environment process wrapped up, partners around Oregon and in other states expressed increasing interest in market and incentive-based approaches. In 2009, Willamette Partnership expanded its operations, starting with projects in Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Klamath Rivers, Idaho, and Washington. Today we work across the western United States and play an increasing role in national policy.

In addition to continued expansion and extension of our market-based work, the Partnership is increasingly exploring how the tools forged in ecosystem markets can apply to other conservation challenges. The recent focus on market-based approaches to conservation has led to the development of newer and better ways to quantify, verify, and track the ecosystem benefits landowners provide. While ecosystem markets are just one tool to expand the pace of conservation, we believe the tools and process we’ve developed to help make ecosystem markets work can help improve the outcomes of a much broader diversity of conservation and community resilience efforts.