Longtime Crag client Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition turns 40 this year, and the organization celebrated this landmark with its annual Coast Conference in Newport last Saturday. Oregon Shores uses education, advocacy, and citizen engagement to preserve coastal ecosystems and public access. Founded soon after the passage of Oregon’s iconic Beach Bill, the group took on the task of protecting the public’s rights of access to and along the sandy shores of Oregon. Along the way, Oregon Shores has stayed true to its original mission while broadening its focus to address ocean issues, land use matters, and climate change impacts on the coast.
I attended the Coast Conference in Newport last weekend, which brought together local citizens, scientists, policy-makers, and advocates to consider what is probably the most significant issue shaping the coast today: climate change. Two of the presentations provided me with a particularly telling perspective. A presentation by historian William Robbins of OSU provided a look back at how logging practices, and particularly industrial-scale logging, literally changed the landscape and the watersheds of Oregon’s coast. This history provided a background to understanding how human activities directly impact our coastal communities,both natural and social. Building on that background, climate change ecologist Dr. Allen Solomon presented realistic projections of how climate change, including sea level rise and storm surge, will further alter the shape of the coast as we know it. The more indirect effects of climate change are likely to be just as powerful in re-shaping the natural and social communities of the coast as the direct human activities of industrial logging. How we respond to these changes will be critical to the future of the coast.
During my three years at Crag, working with Oregon Shores has been the cornerstone of the Coastal Law Project. From challenging proposals for river-side residential development on land zoned for recreation, gravel mining in South Coast rivers, and destination resorts and golf courses in important habitat locations, to collaborating with fishermen, local governments, and state agencies on marine reserves and territorial sea mapping, to providing local citizen groups with the tools they need to start proactively planning for the effects of climate change in their communities, Oregon Shores tackles the issues threatening the long-term health of coastal communities and ecosystems. The Oregonian ran a story last week to bring attention to the achievements of Oregon Shores during the past 40 years, and I feel privileged to provide support to Oregon Shores as it moves into its next 40 years, always looking forward to protect the future of Oregon’s coast.