Rocky Habitat Proposals Under Review
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 slow-moving process for more than three years. The basic framework of the management strategy was approved last year, but now it is up to the public to propose particular levels of protection for special sites, which is a key element in the strategy to protect these important resource areas.
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. Those proposals that pass muster with the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) 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 last year during which the proposals were reviewed. The criteria were not clear, and it is fair to say that those groups involved in advocating for site designations, including Oregon Shores, were frustrated. But it is after all a pilot effort, so all are moving ahead with this first round, while pushing for clearer standards for future rounfds.
OPAC favored two sites, at Coquille Point in Coos County and Cape Blanco in Curry County, recommending protective designations. In addition, six other proposals are still alive and in “continuing consultation.” They will be evaluated by OPAC sometime in spring, 2022; exact dates are yet to be determined. These sites include Ecola Point and Chapman Point in Clatsop County, Blacklock Point in Curry, Cape Foulweather, Cape Lookout in Tillamook, and Fogarty Creek and Cape Foulweather in Lincoln. The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) and the Oregon Coastal Management Program staff will schedule and host public consultation workshops between the agencies and the proposers. Proposal authors will be provided the opportunity to present their proposals during the workshops and to describe or comment on any further work to resolve considerations identified in the process.
Considerations overlap for some proposals and a therefore a coalition in which Oregon Shores is active has formed to share responses and address agency concerns. For some of these proposals, local groups are meeting regularly to discuss the considerations in preparation for the workshops. These core teams welcome engagement from the public, especially those who live and/or work near the proposed sites. Stakeholder outreach and subsequent conversations continue to be a key aspect of this work. Public comment will be allowed during the spring workshop.
In 2021, DLCD took significant steps to increase collaborative engagement with the public to improve the rocky habitat process, thanks to work done by a coalition including Portland Audubon, Audubon Society of Lincoln City, Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), and Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA), along with Oregon Shores. We are encouraged to see that many of the recommendations regarding the rocky habitat evaluation process have been incorporated into the draft. This level of engagement with the public is essential if the process is to be successful in future years. DLCD staff are tasked with revamping the flawed process, and the final version will go to OPAC in fall, 2022 for approval.
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 offered information and support to anyone interested in developing a proposal for a particular site.
The two sites where we were the lead applicant were Blacklock Point and Crook Point, both in Curry County, for which we sought the most protective Marine Conservation status. Blacklock Point is one of the sites in "continuing consultation." Crook Point was turned down; this is one of the most important rocky intertidal and subtidal habitat areas on the Oregon coast, so we will try again for a protective designation in the next round of the proces. We are actively supported 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. We support proposals by other groups elsewhere on the coast.
If you would like to lend a voice for rocky habitat designations in Oregon, or if you would like to learn more about this process, please contact CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator Jesse Jones at 503-989-7244 or [email protected].
Some deeper background: Four 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.
The Rocky Habitat Working Group considered the citizen-based proposals, and their recommendations were then considered by OPAC. The state's Land Conservation and Development Commission will ultimately 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, 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.