Trading Fruit for Fish in Washington

by Brandon Scarborough

The final installment (at least for now) in PERC’s Water as a CropTM series highlights how agriculturalists can capture conservation values and economic profits by altering land and water use practices.  In Washington’s Columbia River Basin, fish migration routes have been severed and spawning habitat lost because of declines in stream flows and water quality. In response, spring-run Chinook, steelhead, and bull trout are now listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, and a host of regulatory programs have since been implemented.

Despite these efforts, however, populations have failed to recover and little has been done to restore critical habitat.  As an alternative, local orchardists have formed a program that links conservation to economic opportunity. Fruit growers can get paid to replace riparian fruit trees with fish-friendly vegetation buffers  -- in effect, orchardists are going to be growing fish in place of fruit. Read the full case study here.

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Brandon Scarborough is a research fellow at PERC currently focused on the use of water markets in the West to restore stream flows for wildlife, fish and other environmental amenities. He is just completing another project on carbon sequestration and the efficacy of using forest management to address climate change. His other interests include...
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