Rocky Habitat Protection Proposals Now Being Considered

The state of Oregon is developing a new Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, the first revision of Oregon’s policy for protecting rocky intertidal and nearshore subtidal ecosystems since 1994.  Oregon Shores has been actively engaged in this process for the past three years.  We are now in the crucial final phase—the basic framework of the management strategy has been approved, but now it is up to the public to propose particular levels of protection for special sites. 

In a highly unusual process, it was left to citizens and community groups to seek "site designations," which required filing detailed proposals, demanding a good deal of information and expertise, and also required evidence of broad-based outreach and community outreach.  Despite this challenging process, 12 sites were proposed by citizens or groups.  Among these, Oregon Shores worked with other groups and allies on eight.  To learn more about the 12 proposals, go here:  https://www.oregonocean.info/index.php/territorial-sea-planning. Those proposals that pass muster with the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council and Land Conservation and Development Commission will become part of the management strategy when it is formally adopted.  The Rocky Habitat Working Group of OPAC held a series of meetings in February during which the proposals were reviewed. 

The public comment period for the first phase of consideration by the Rocky Habitat Working Group is now closed.  Once the working group makes its recommendations to OPAC, another phase will begin.  Watch this space for details.

Oregon Shores pursued rocky shore habitat protections in two ways.  We took a leadership role in building community support and drafting proposals for some key sites.  And through CoastWatch, we are offered information and support to anyone interested in developing a proposal for a particular site.  We helped to organize the South Coast Rocky Habitat Group, which involved several conservation groups and numerous community members in proposing several sites.

The two sites where we are the lead applicant are Blacklock Point and Crook Point, both in Curry County, for which we are seeking Marine Conservation status.  We are actively supporting PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), a research consortium based at Oregon State University, in proposing Marine Research Reserve designation for Cape Blanco, also in Curry County. 

We also participated in the North Coast Rocky Habitat Coalition, proposing protection for Ecola Point and Chapman Point, just north of Cannon Beach, represented by board member Ed Joyce.  We support proposals by other groups elsewhere on the coast.

Much of Oregon Shores’ work on rocky habitats focuses on the south coast.  Board member Larry Basch and CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator Jesse Jones have worked hard to assess sites and make contacts with communities, groups and individuals in that region.

If interested in supporting a site designation proposal at one of the above-mentioned sites, or in proposing a designation for another site, contact Jesse Jones at [email protected]

Some background:  Three years ago, Oregon Shores successfully urged the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) to begin a review of Oregon’s policies protecting rocky intertidal habitat on the coast.  As we argued, these policies hadn’t been reviewed since the 1990s, and the plan that had been adopted then had never been completely implemented.  OPAC agreed, and a working group was formed.  It has been a long process, with many steps (in which Oregon Shores has participated all the way), but a penultimate draft of a new Rocky Habitat Management Strategy is now on the table.  The Rocky Habitat Working Group of OPAC considered comments made by the public (including Oregon Shores) and then approved a final draft.  And finally, on May 6 of 2020, OPAC adopted the basic plan framework.  On June 1, the final phase, site desigation based on proposals from the public, was launched, and ran through December.

Once the Rocky Habitat Working Group considers the citizen-based proposals, their recommendations will be considered by OPAC.  The state's Land Conservation and Development Commission will then review the plan together with those site designations approved by OPAC. When LCDC formally adopts the strategy, this years-long effort to update the state's management of rocky marine resources will finally be complete.  (Complete, but not set in stone.  The strategy contains an open-ended provision that the public can propose new site designations at any time, although there will be a hiatus after the plan is adopted before new proposals will be considered.)

Oregon’s headlands, tidepools, rocky beaches, cliffs, and offshore rocks (collectively about 41% of the state’s 362-mile shoreline) are managed by multiple state and federal agencies using a coordinated framework, known as the Territorial Sea Plan (which comes under Goal 19 of the state’s land use planning program). The Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, which will become Part 3 of this plan, is intended to help sustain and support the use and health of rocky habitat resources.

To review the draft strategy, go here:  http://bit.ly/37IHF25.

To review the Rocky Habitat Mapping Tool, which will be used in the site designation process, go here:  http://oregon.seasketch.org

Visit https://OregonOcean.info for more information and updates, including a schedule of upcoming public presentations.  You will also find information about public comment sessions or webinars in our calendar.

 For questions about the process, contact Michael Moses, (503) 934-0623, [email protected]. For questions about the work our CoastWatch program is doing to support citizens engaged in this process, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch volunteer coordinator, at (503) 989-7244, [email protected].