Estuaries Are Essential

They are vital coastal ecosystems, sheltered areas where freshwater and seawater mix, arenas of constant change where tides rise and fall, river flows shift, and migratory creatures come and go. They are among the most productive and important ecosystems on the planet, offering habitat and abundant food for fish and wildlife. Often called “nurseries of the sea,” estuaries are essential to the health of marine ecosystems. They play a crucial role in the life cycles of many species that migrate to and from the ocean, and provide nutrients that fuel food webs on land and at sea.

In the Oregon Conservation Strategy, our state’s plan for conserving species and their ecosystems, estuaries are considered vital “strategy habitats” because protecting them benefits many threatened and endangered species.

Caring for Estuaries is Caring for Communities

Estuaries foster biodiversity with a complex patchwork of habitats, including eelgrass beds, mudflats, saltmarshes, and tidal swamps. They are crucial for buffering the impacts of climate change, moderating storm surges, and improving water quality. These “ecosystem services” are foundational for coastal communities, bolstering resilience to flooding and storm surges and supporting economies based on abundant natural resources, such as fisheries, recreation, and tourism. By protecting Oregon’s estuaries, we can increase coastal resilience to climate change while doing our share as part of a worldwide stewardship network for the global ocean.

Currently, we are working with the Coos Bay and Yaquina Bay communities to manage the future of their estuarine resources.

Learn more

Coos Bay Estuary    Yaquina Bay Estuary

We Must Act Now

A critical aim of the Campaign for Oregon’s Estuaries is to promote responsible management and protection of Oregon’s estuaries by strengthening Estuary Management Plans (EMPs) throughout the coastal region. As part of Oregon’s land use planning system, our 22 major estuaries are zoned and managed by local governments through EMPs, which are incorporated within their comprehensive plans. However, all of these EMPs are decades old. They are not designed to address the challenges created by climate change, nor do they meaningfully consider endangered species and habitat protection. We aim to ensure that EMPs for all of Oregon’s estuaries are modernized and expanded in scope to encompass the need to preserve, enhance, and restore estuarine resources as we address a challenging future.

All About EMPs

Recognizing Connections

Within the current structure of the land use planning system, separate EMPs were created for each estuary, and these plans direct management of each estuary separate from its adjacent shorelands, watershed, the nearshore ocean, and connections to other estuaries without acknowledging the links among systems and species. As we plan to maintain the vitality of our estuaries, the focus of our strategy must be more comprehensive.

The vision underlying our Campaign for Oregon’s Estuaries is holistic: linking estuaries to their watersheds and the nearshore ocean, and human communities to natural ones. We see estuaries as the linchpin ecosystems weaving together the coastal environment and we work to bring this landscape-level, ecosystem-based perspective to their planning and management. We depend on estuaries for many things, but the health of our estuaries depends on us. This is the mission of the Campaign for Oregon’s Estuaries.

Key objectives of the Campaign:

  • Holistic Management

    Employing watershed-level planning and ecosystem-based approaches to acknowledge the connections among systems and better integrate the implementation of statewide planning goals across the coastal landscape.

  • Adaptation to Climate Change

    Mitigating the effects of climate change and building resilience by planning for changing conditions and integrating nature-based solutions, which employ natural features to mitigate hazards while enhancing ecosystem integrity and biodiversity.

  • Intact Ecosystems

    Incorporating species and habitat protections within land use plans, focusing on endangered and threatened species and those identified as species of concern in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

  • Blue Carbon

    Emphasizing the role of estuaries in carbon sequestration and storage and enhancing carbon drawdown by restoring and protecting wetland and seagrass habitats.

  • Restoring a Natural System

    Increasing support for restoration efforts and planning to restore the historical range of our estuaries, not just the limited areas that remain after alterations like diking, filling, and shoreline armoring have occurred

  • Clean Water

    Acknowledging the role estuarine habitats play in improving water quality and the impacts watershed pollution have on estuary health, in our planning efforts.

  • Estuaries for All

    Fostering extensive community engagement and enhanced stewardship of our estuaries, through outreach to all segments of communities throughout watersheds.

  • Cultural Connections

    Recognizing Tribal sovereignty and uplifting tribal voices in estuary management, including acknowledging Traditional and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge as valuable and necessary to manage appropriately and steward estuarine resources.

  • Estuary Education

    Enhancing statewide public education about the importance of estuaries for all ages and demographic groups.

Help preserve the legacy of our Oregon coast for all generations