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Conservation

Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment

It took people from 20 organizations (in two countries) over 10,000 hours and five years to finish, but the Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregional Assessment, led by The Nature Conservancy of Oregon, is now complete. Its a hearty 700-page report that identifies the sites where conservation actions in the ecoregion will most benefit biodiversity.

Oregon has seven ecoregions, large geographic areas tied together by similar geology, climate and vegetation. Each ecoregion provides a framework for understanding and conserving biological diversity. The Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregion spans areas of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, covering 27,700 square miles of land and 5,800 square miles of coastal waters. The shoreline, estuaries, rivers, mountains, coastal plains and coastal forests create a region rich in diverse plant communities, wildlife and sensitive habitats. It encompasses the entire North Coast Basin of Oregon.

"The project integrates marine, freshwater and terrestrial conservation priorities into a single assessment," said Dick Vander Schaaf, Oregon coast and marine conservation director for The Nature Conservancy. "I'm looking forward to turning the assessment into on-the-ground and in-the-water conservation actions." One current focus for the Conservancy is to emphasize estuary restoration with an eye towards returning native oysters to bays where they were formerly plentiful. The ecoregional assessment identifies a number of priority estuaries where The Nature Conservancy and partners will be combining efforts at such restoration work, such as at Netarts Bay. Partners at that site include local oystermen, the Tillamook Estuary Partnership and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The assessment, now the most comprehensive data and planning source for the region, identifies 164 conservation areas where action is needed to ensure the regions full panoply of natural diversity is protected. It also highlights important connections between land and ocean conservation and calls for intensified research on nearshore marine systems, where data is relatively scarce compared to land-based systems. Within the North Coast Basin, areas such as Siletz Bay-Drift Creek, Cape Lookout-Sandlake, and Saddle Mountain have been identified as priority sites for conservation attention. The assessment will assist interested parties in determining what elements of biodiversity are important at these sites, from an ecoregional perspective, and thus allow for actions that specifically address these conservation targets. The ecoregional study also provided insights into how habitat losses and fisheries management can disastrously affect salmon runs. Renowned for its highly productive nearshore marine ecosystems, the ecoregion includes some of the best remaining salmon habitats throughout the North Pacific. View the complete Pacific Northwest Coast study.