Globally, ecological restoration activities are increasing in response to environmental, economic, and cultural trends that value ecological capital for the services provided by healthy functioning ecosystems. To ensure continued investment in ecological restoration, practitioners and researchers need to identify links to the benefits accrued to society from ecological restoration practice and policy. Nonetheless, a recent review of published literature on ecological restoration concludes that the policy and socioeconomic contributions of ecological restoration are often ignored. To help fill this gap, we describe the policy context of a sustained program of forest and watershed restoration in Oregon, U.S.A. and report on three related studies on the market structure and resulting economic impacts of this program of work in Oregon. The first study examines the experiences of watershed councils (n = 52) in mobilizing human resources for ecological restoration. The second focuses on the businesses and firms (n = 190) that participate in Oregon's restoration economy. The third analyzes the employment and economic impacts from a sample of Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board restoration grants (n = 99). We found that the sustained program of restoration work in Oregon has conferred significant benefits to Oregon's economy. These impacts largely accrue to rural areas in need of economic development opportunities due to declines in traditional resource management activities. In addition to approximately 16 jobs supported per million dollars invested in ecological restoration, a sustained investment in restoration has created both new local organizational capacity in watershed councils and other community-based partners and business opportunities especially in rural Oregon.