Willamette River Initiative

Restoring a River Basin to Resurrect a Community

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The Willamette River is of tremendous natural, cultural and economic significance to Oregonians – its watershed is home to 70% of Oregon’s population and the source of nearly three-quarters of its economic output.  Every day, thousands of Oregonians use the Willamette’s water, catch its fish, or simply enjoy time with friends and family along the river and its tributaries.

The Willamette faces an uncertain future.  Many of its reaches and tributaries exceed state water quality standards.  Stormwater run-off carries sediments, bacteria, and toxic chemicals into the river.  Native habitats have declined dramatically, and multiple fish and wildlife species have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Projected population growth and climate change pose additional threats to the river’s health.

In 2008, the Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT) stepped up to the challenge and created the Willamette River Initiative. The Trust established the Initiative to attain meaningful, measurable improvements in the health of the river, and to create a national model for effective philanthropic involvement in the restoration of large, complex ecological systems.
Acknowledging its own infrastructure constraints in the face of such a complex undertaking, in 2009 MMT entered into a partnership with Tides.  Through this partnership, MMT awards and administers grants to nonprofit organizations working to improve the Willamette’s health -- over $2 million to date -- while Tides provides a constellation of fiscal sponsorship and other services to ensure effective management of the initiative, including strategic planning, budgeting, and restoration project development. 

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