I love my job. I get to work to protect our environment, including Oregon’s amazing coastline and the ecosystems, wildlife, and communities that thrive there. But one downside of this job is that I am often tied to my desk with many projects demanding my attention. It’s not always easy to make time to get out and visit the places I work to protect. When I do, it’s always a rewarding experience.
During a trip to the south coast last fall, where I was presenting a series of land use workshops in partnership with Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, I had the rare opportunity to visit the Crook Point Unit of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the coastal headland just south of the Pistol River, 12 miles south of Gold Beach, the Refuge is closed to the public. I was only allowed to enter as the accompanied guest of David Ledig, the South Coast Unit Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The reason for our visit was to see and better understand the concerns of the Fish and Wildlife Service with a large destination resort proposed for a neighboring parcel of land. The destination resort would include two golf courses, 175 units of lodging, spa, clubhouse and restaurant, among other things. As we hiked down to the beach at the Refuge and looked out at Mack Arch Rock, the wind blowing across the sand, our footprints the only sign of human activity, I felt I had been carried back in time–back to a time before beachfront condos, curios shops, golf courses and rip rap. We might as well have been on the edge of the world. Dave regaled us with stories of the bird and mammal denizens of the Refuge, including black bear, known to come all the way down to the beach at the Refuge, an event unheard of in more developed sections of the coast.
My visit revived my resolve to work harder to protect these remaining pockets of wild coast, and re-energized me for the work I knew lay ahead. Happily, my work paid off last week when the Land Use Board of Appeals rejected Curry County’s approval of plans for the destination resort. The work is not finished, but I will hold the images of my visit that day in my mind as a reminder of the reasons why I love this job.