Our History

Meyer Memorial Trust established the Willamette River Initiative in July 2008, making a 10-year commitment to improve the river’s health by funding restoration and science on the Willamette and its tributaries.

We made our first grants in 2009. Over time, our network of grantees and partners would grow to dozens of groups spanning from scientists and restoration practitioners to landowners and communicators.

The WRI approach was simple: By committing to sustained, long-term, focused investment, Meyer’s board of trustees believed they could measurably improve the river’s health by unlocking potential for greater scale and impact in river restoration. That meant making grants to groups working toward river health in a strategic way. Just as importantly, it meant providing opportunities for groups across the region to come together and collaborate toward common goals for the river.

We partnered with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Bonneville Power Administration to leverage each group’s resources into a coordinated investment in Willamette River restoration. 

The initiative and its partners quickly gained recognition as a model of successful investment in rivers. In 2012, the Willamette River was awarded the International RiverFoundation’s prestigious Thiess International Riverprize. The award recognized the Willamette restoration field’s innovative partnership as a strong example of collaboration toward improved river health.

Nine years and $18.5 million into WRI’s investment, our community’s success has only grown. Because of this work, emerging forests now cover thousands of acres in our basin, providing cooling shade for fish, habitat for birds and land animals and tranquil recreation space for humans. Newly-opened floodplain wetlands clean our water and shelter fish and wildlife.

As our community’s restoration successes multiplied, we recognized our work wasn’t representative of all communities that value and depend upon our river. We also knew we could do more to acknowledge and address injustice in how different communities influence and experience river health. So in 2015, WRI added a new goal, focused on promoting equity and justice within Willamette River conservation.

With our initiative nearing its planned transition in March 2019, we’re working closely with our partners to build what comes next. Join us in the next phase of our journey toward a healthier river for all.


Our future

As we celebrate a decade of successful collaboration for river health, WRI and its partners are building a bridge to the next era of Willamette restoration and protection.

A restoration worker points to photos of river restoration in-progress along the mainstem Willamette.

Our work is guided by four key goals for the river basin.

An adult salmon swims upstream in the Willamette Basin.

We envision a Willamette that is swimmable, fishable and a reliable source of drinking water.

WRI team members pose by the Willamette River.
Our team

Get acquainted with the dedicated staff behind the Willamette River Initiative.