Are you one of the many Oregonians who loves the beautiful coast of this state? If you have lived in Benton County for any length of time, you undoubtedly have made drive to the coast to enjoy the phenomenal scenery, wonderous tide pools, or to catch a glimpse of the whales famous for migrating up and down Oregon’s coast. If you have spent time on the coast, you most likely appreciate conservation efforts to protect the integrity and health of nearshore marine habitats and tidal areas.
Currently, there is ongoing work to amend and add to the policy that has been managing these ecosystems for the last 25 years, and you can have your opinion included as part of a public comment period on changes to Oregon’s Rocky Habitat Management Strategy (RHMS).
Because the coast is invaluable for its commercial and recreational resources, you might be surprised to learn that the RHMS – geared specifically towards protecting the state’s rocky shores and nearshore marine habitats – has not been updated since its institution in 1994. This is finally changing, much to many conservation groups’ approval.
What is the RHMS?
Created as a strategy to manage and protect Oregon’s marine biodiversity and increasing understanding of marine systems, the RHMS was originally drafted by the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council. This resulted in the creation of numerous marine sites up and down the coast that fall into three categories; Marine Research Areas, Marine Gardens for education purposes, and Marine Conservation Areas.
These different types of designated habitats have varying levels of protection, or levels at which they can be disturbed by anthropogenic activity like fishing or boating. You may have already visited one or two of these sites to appreciate their well-known beauty, as the Otter Rock Marine Reserve is located just seven miles north of Newport, and Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is just 29 miles south.
Why Change It?
Conservation groups have been calling for a revamp of the RHMS as environmental conditions and resource use has changed in the last 25 years, and new species are at threat of extinction and marine ecosystems around the world are degrading. 12 additional sites have been proposed along Oregon’s coast to be added to the management strategy, distinguished by their importance to ecological function, intertidal diversity, and/or education value.
How Can You Help?
You can add your voice to this conservation effort by participating in the 30-day public comment period, open for two more weeks until April 15.
You can visit the Oregon Ocean Information website to learn more about each proposed site and find instructions for adding your comments to the public opinion pool.
There will also be virtual office hours with conservation officials in charge of managing these habitats on April 7 and 14, and the public is invited to drop in to ask questions about the newly proposed RHMS sites.
By: Lauren Zatkos