CoastWatch, a citizen monitoring program, engages Oregonians in stewardship of their shoreline. The program offers education about shoreline ecology and natural history along with opportunities to contribute data to a variety of citizen science projects. Volunteers adopt mile-long segments of Oregon's coast, observing and reporting natural changes and human-induced impacts.
In these times when government is constrained and more people than ever are visiting the shoreline, it is up to citizens to take responsibility for the health of our coast and the natural resources and scenic beauty we all cherish. Through CoastWatch, the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition enables citizens to exercise a personal form of stewardship over a stretch of Oregon’s shore. Founded in 1993, CoastWatch is a network of dedicated volunteers who monitor every foot of Oregon’s shoreline.
Each CoastWatch volunteer adopts a segment of Oregon’s coast roughly a mile in length; any number of people can adopt a particular mile. More than 1,675 individuals, working alone, in couples or in groups, are currently involved in monitoring and observing CoastWatch miles. Mile adopters also include businesses, youth groups and school classes, churches and recreational organizations.
CoastWatch volunteers make their miles a part of their lives. They visit as frequently as possible and note natural events and human-induced changes, completing reports on the conditions they find on their miles. They also turn their gaze inland as far as seems relevant to trace the sources of impacts on the shore, and share their information with friends, neighbors, regulatory agencies and the community. They raise their voices when threats arise and take part in making decisions that affect their portion of the coast.
Although there are many scientists and naturalists within the CoastWatch ranks, no expertise is required to get started watching a mile—CoastWatchers come from all walks of life and all age groups. Volunteers are progressively trained over the years. New CoastWatchers can make an immediate contribution simply by keeping an active watch and reporting evident changes and abuses. Through a series of training sessions and instructional materials, volunteers will be able to increase their skills in observing and reporting on the shoreline environment. Those with knowledge relevant to monitoring a mile can serve as mentors to other mile adopters.
The aim is to have increasingly experienced volunteers keeping watch, noting proposed land-use changes, monitoring for pollution, measuring beach growth or loss, surveying bird and animal populations, and calling attention to such abuses as dumping, illegal harvesting, or wetland filling. This information is of value to Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition in its advocacy work, as well as to resource agencies, local officials and citizens, other environmental groups, and academic researchers. The hope is that CoastWatchers will grow in their knowledge of this particular place, and thus in the authority with which they can speak on its behalf.
For 51 years, Oregon Shores has sought to protect the coast in land use hearings, regulatory board meetings, and courtrooms. This is necessary work, but environmental action becomes dry and abstract when it deals only with legal processes. CoastWatch is designed to root our larger purposes more firmly in the ground we are determined to protect and conserve. This program is based on hundreds of volunteers learning about and becoming wedded to particular places, pooling their knowledge and then sharing this personal experience with the community through education and advocacy. The goal is to create a dramatically effective means of involving citizens in deciding the shoreline’s future.
The soul of CoastWatch, however, will remain the intimate bonding of the individual, family or team of volunteers to the land and water along one stretch of shoreline. Adopting a mile involves time and work, but it is intended to be fun and intriguing as well—a chance to become a working naturalist, using a mile of the Oregon shore as classroom and testing ground.
Oregon Shores is looking for people who care about Oregon’s coast and are willing to adopt miles and begin watching over them. Stewardship and vigilance can begin right away—more detailed observation will come with time. New mile adopters can be helpful anywhere. Those able to reach remote or rugged areas—sea kayakers, horseback riders, hikers, surfers and divers, among others—can play an especially valuable role.
Through this form of stewardship over our shoreline, we can make a powerful difference in the future of the coastal region we all prize. CoastWatch is becoming a tradition that will be passed on from parents to children and from one generation to the next.
Those who would like to adopt a mile, who would like to assist us in funding this enterprise, or who would like to participate in any other capacity, are urged to contact the program and take their place within the CoastWatch network.