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Value of Habitat

America’s coastal habitats are vital to the local and national economies. Coastal communities provide recreation, tourism, and commercial activities, which provide more than 28 million jobs nationwide.


Healthy habitat supports vibrant coastal economies—and sustainable fisheries. We know that:

  • Coastal and estuary habitats are home to more than 75 percent of our nation’s commercial fish catch and 80 to 90 percent of the recreational fish catch.

  • Together, coastal watershed counties contribute more than $4.5 trillion, or half of the nation’s gross domestic product.

  • More than 180 million people visit beaches and other coastal habitats every year, and coastal recreation and tourism generate $8 to $12 billion annually.

When habitats are damaged or destroyed, these economic and community opportunities suffer.

Nature’s Benefits

Habitat provides other benefits that aren’t as easy to quantify but are just as important. Nature’s benefits—also called ecosystem services—are the contributions that support our day-to-day lives. They include higher property values, lower infrastructure costs, and increased flood protection.

For example, healthy coastal wetlands can absorb excess water, reducing the worst effects of hurricanes, storms, and tides. This protection saves vulnerable coastal communities $23 billion each year, according to this paper on the value of coastal wetlands for hurricane protection.

In Muskegon, Michigan, a 2011 coastal restoration study determined that, over 15 years, a $10 million investment in habitat restoration would generate a $12 million increase in property values, up to $600,000 in new tax revenue annually, and more than $1 million in new recreational spending. A 2020 follow-up study found that, so far, the community had seen a $7.9 million increase in area property values and $27.9 million in added recreational benefits annually. 

A wetland restoration project in Huntington Beach, California, increased residential property values by $36.3 million.

In Washington State’s Skagit River delta, a $7.7 million investment to restore marsh habitat will provide up to $21 million in benefits to the community in coming years. The project removed outdated dikes and levees, which will improve flood protection for the community while reducing infrastructure maintenance costs.

We conserve habitat to sustain the nation’s fisheries—but habitat isn’t valuable just for the home it provides for fish and wildlife. It also improves water quality, provides jobs, and supports stronger business growth. A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment.