Audubon Society pushes for habitat protections

The Audubon Society of Lincoln City is pushing to create a Marine Conservation Area at Cape Foulweather, which sits above the Pacific Ocean between Otter Rock and Depoe Bay. (Photo by Jeremy Burke)

Local group wants designation for Cape Foulweather

LINCOLN CITY — The state of Oregon is in the process of updating its Rocky Habitat Management Strategy for the first time in 25 years, and the Audubon Society of Lincoln City is pushing the state to designate Cape Foulweather as a Marine Conservation Area.

The basic framework of the habitat management strategy has already been approved, and now the citizens of Oregon are tasked with helping select levels of protection for proposed protection sites. 

The Audubon Society of Lincoln City believes both Cape Foulweather, located between Otter Rock and Depoe Bay in Lincoln County, and Cape Lookout in Tillamook County, deserve protections granted under the Marine Conservation Area designation.

“While the goal of the Marine Conservation Area designation is to conserve the natural ecosystem by limiting adverse impacts to habitat and wildlife, Audubon’s proposed designations call for no change in coastwide regulations for recreational or commercial fishing,” the society wrote in a Nov. 12 news release. “Rocky habitats along the Oregon coastline are a primary attraction for the tourist economy and enrich the lives of all those living in coastal communities.”

Cape Foulweather is noted as the first land formation seen by British explorer Capt. James Cook on his third voyage around the earth in 1778. He named the site after the choppy ocean conditions his expedition battled nearby. The cliffs at Cape Foulweather rise as high as 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean, about four miles north of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Community groups, such as the Audubon Society of Lincoln City, are encouraged by the state to submit proposals using protective designations for coastal rocky habitats to the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) by Dec. 31. OPAC’s Territorial Sea Plan working group will review submissions, then present findings and recommendations for OPAC consideration.

Then, OPAC will finalize a draft Territorial Sea Plan amendment and forward it to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission for public review and formal adoption, scheduled for next year. The Territorial Sea Plan provides detailed guidance to state and federal agencies to manage uses within the coastal zone and the state’s territorial sea from up to three nautical miles offshore. Plan amendments intend to incorporate best-science practices and consider the needs, concerns and values of Oregon residents in conjunction with the state’s goals for a resilient costal ecosystem.

“Our investment in the Rocky Habitat Management process will reap benefits for not only the birds and other wildlife, but also for future generations of Oregonians,” Dawn Villaescusa, Audubon Society of Lincoln City president, said in the news release.

Designating Cape Foulweather a Marine Conservation Area will allow for the following:

• Protection of the nesting habitat for the Black Oystercatcher and other seabirds;

• Restoration and maintenance of the area’s kelp forests, which serve as a nursery for several fish species and provide a vital food source for gray whales while mitigating the effects of climate change;

• Providing an opportunity for community involvement in the management of the coastline;

• Education of boaters, drone enthusiasts and others about the need to keep an appropriate distance from nesting seabird colonies;

• Preservation of the area in its natural state.

Members of the Audubon Society of Lincoln City are engaging area stakeholders with hopes of supporting the effort to designate Cape Foulweather as a Marine Conservation Area. To learn how to help, visit lincolncityaudubon.org/rock.html.

To learn more about the Rocky Habitat Management Strategy, go to https://bit.ly/2IDwGzU.

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