The Mission of the Coos Watershed Association is to support environmental integrity and economic stability within the Coos watershed by increasing community capacity to develop, test, promote, and implement management practices in the interests of watershed health.
This mission is informed by the underlying values of both our board of directors and our staff which capture the legitimate place human activities have in the watershed alongside our responsibility to utilize resources responsibly.
Streams, rivers, land, and livelihoods can and should be protected at many levels, but we believe that conservation from the bottom up is especially powerful. Because of our commitment to working with people directly tied to resources in the Coos Bay area, our organization operates at the watershed scale.
The Coos watershed includes all of the land (and its people and wildlife) from which water eventually flows to Coos Bay. Lives and livelihoods depend on the watershed’s health, and that health is the product of independent activities by many different land and water users. That is why diverse interests came together to form the not-for-profit Coos Watershed Association. The governing board includes a broad cross-section of local people to ensure awareness of all perspectives.
While each of us may have a different need or use for watershed resources, what we have in common is the need to protect those benefits by working together at watershed scale. CoosWA creates a local, non-governmental network and funding resource so that landowners can easily communicate their issues and opportunities, and explore ideas and techniques for land management and watershed health.
The Coos Watershed Association is one of 90 watershed councils designated by local government across the state of Oregon and is approved by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to receive grants for watershed health projects. Watershed councils are defined as " locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area." For more information on watershed councils visit the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board's (OWEB) website or view the map of other neighboring watershed councils.
The Coos Watershed Association (CoosWA) was formed in 1993 by a diverse group of local stakeholders. The State of Oregon had suggested that communities form voluntary advisory groups for government spending on coho habitat improvement, in hopes of staving off “threatened” status for the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. Initially, landowners were concerned that an ESA listing would create regulatory barriers to their economic activities.
The group that began to gather in the Coos watershed decided to first find representatives of every possible local interest affecting the watershed. As those different watershed users began talking together, they agreed that the real problem wasn’t “coho.” It was the lack of any easy system for sharing information, ideas and collaborative opportunities to address watershed health in a non-governmental and non-regulatory context.
As a result, they created an independent nonprofit that could provide the necessary information network, help develop specific collaborative projects, serve as an intermediary with regulatory agencies, and itself directly receive and expend government and private grant funds for projects in partnership with any interested landowner.
The board structure was designed to ensure continued representation and equality among all points of view, and the group together created a Statement of Shared Values and mission affirming their purpose: to work collaboratively to test and seek solutions for more sustainable practices serving combined environmental and economic goals.
Since 1994 the nonprofit Coos Watershed Association has adhered to that mission and those values. We have earned and retain the trust and confidence of a wide variety of landowners and land users, and serve as a helpful bridge between the private sector, regulatory agencies, and local governments. Our science team develops reliable watershed health data in partnership with state and federal agencies, and our project managers help landowners design and find funding for on-the-ground projects that improve the health of their lands and the watershed.
As of 2018, CoosWA has attracted and expended more than $20,000,000 in the watershed, with most of that money going to local contractors and suppliers.