Who We Are

 The Coos Watershed Association has been leading innovative science, restoration, monitoring, and education programs with the Coos watershed community since 1994. We are one of Oregon’s 90+ watershed councils, which are defined as locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area. For us, that is all the water and land that falls within the 610 square mile Coos watershed. Our group is made up of a diverse team of program staff and is governed by a Board of Directors that represents a broad cross-section of community interests. In the 1990s, the Board created a mission and statement of shared values that still guide our work today. Read more about our story here, and download our general brochure here (or see images below).

Mission statement

Statement of Shared Values:

  1. It is possible to achieve both environmental integrity, economic stability and human well-being within the Coos watershed;
  2. Natural products and processes of the watershed are indicators of watershed health, and are important to the economy and vitality of the community;
  3. Human activities have a legitimate place in the watershed;
  4. Our actions can affect the stability of the watershed and related economy;
  5. Deliberate planning and action for watershed health are important and effectively achieved by the people who live and work within the watershed;
  6. A watershed scale-perspective improves our ability to sustain the health of the watershed and related economic activities.
  7. The coordination of our individual effects can achieve a synergistic, beneficial effect on the watershed.
  8. Maintaining harmonious relationships with stakeholders, partners, landowners, clients, suppliers, employees and each other contributes to the organization’s effectiveness in improving the health of the watershed.
  9. Fostering and appreciating a diversity of opinion, background, and approach while supporting the mission of the Coos WA will ultimately strengthen the Board and further our efforts to advance the mission and sustain our organization

Our Story

In the early 1990s, coho salmon populations were on a downward trend, following decades of land management practices that severely impacted and reduced the availability of healthy salmon habitat. Oregonians worried that coho salmon would soon be designated as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, which caused particular concern among Oregon landowners about the impact that regulatory barriers would have on local economies. This led the State of Oregon to start forming voluntary advisory groups to receive government funding to restore and improve salmon habitat before it was too late.

One such advisory group formed in the Coos watershed basin. At a time when tensions were high between environmental and economic interests, an unlikely group of farmers, ranchers, loggers, scientists, and land managers came together around one shared understanding: the extinction of coho salmon would be devastating culturally, environmentally, and economically for our coastal communities, and it would take everyone setting aside differences and working together to solve this complex issue. In doing so, they came to the shared conclusion that the real problem was not coho, but watershed health in general—specifically, the lack of any easy system for sharing information, ideas, and collaborative opportunities to address concerns in a non-governmental and non-regulatory context. They created the Coos Watershed Association as an independent non-profit organization that could develop collaborative projects, work with the community to implement local, state, and federal ecological priorities, and directly receive and expend grant funds for watershed rehabilitation projects in partnership with any interested group or landowner. The founders of the advisory group became our Board of Directors, whose diverse backgrounds were crucial (and still are today) to ensuring continued representation and equality among all points of view.

Over the years, we have worked hard to earn 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. We have expanded the size and expertise of our team as well as the type and complexity of projects we take on, and are always looking for new and creative ways to meet the changing needs of our watershed community. As of 2019, CoosWA has attracted and expended close to $25,000,000 in the watershed, with most of that money going to local contractors and suppliers. Click here for a summary of our accomplishments over the last 25 years

The Coos watershed

The Coos Watershed Association’s service area is the Coos watershed basin, which is a 610 square mile area that encompasses all the land and waters draining into the Coos estuary and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. There are two other watersheds in Coos County: the Tenmile Lakes watershed north of us also drains to the Pacific Ocean, as does the Coquille watershed to the south. The Coos watershed is home to many different plants, animals, and people.

Outreach-Large-Map-2012-01_ver2-red - Copy

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains, or "sheds," water into a specific waterbody. The name suggests that a watershed is all about water. However, a watershed is an area of land where water flows from a high point to a low point. In fact, the water itself usually only makes up 1-2% of a watershed!

The easiest way to understand the watershed concept is to picture rain flowing down a mountainside into a lake or the ocean. The whole surrounding landscape is a watershed, with water draining across to a single point. You can think of this happening on the large scale--such as the Mississippi River watershed, which drains over one million square miles of land and encompasses 32 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces--or on the small scale, such as the Mingus Park watershed, where all the water around the park flows into the pond.

The world is covered in watersheds, big and small. In each case, water flows across and through a landscape on its way to a river, basin, or sea. Click here to see some beautiful maps of the world’s watersheds.

Wherever you are in the world, you are in a watershed!