A milestone for Oregon’s marine reserves

By Krystal Eldridge

Update, March 6: This bill has passed and will go to the governor's desk to be signed.

It’s the last of our 19 land use goals, but it’s been around since 1977: protection for Oregon’s ocean resources. Oregon’s marine reserves came quite a bit later, in 2012, establishing five nearshore ocean locations to support conservation and scientific research. Now, a bill that fortifies the program has unanimously passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.

Oregon’s Marine Reserves Program encompasses approximately 9 percent of Oregon’s ocean waters, all within three nautical miles of our coast. Overseen by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the program covers five reserve sites – Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks – and nine nearby protected areas. Within these areas, ocean development and removal of marine life is prohibited, conserving marine habitat and biodiversity, providing supportive research environments, and offering benefits to coastal communities.

Passage of HB 4132 would provide this legacy of stewardship and enable education and scientific research of ocean resources for generations to come.

Marine reserves are like any other nature reserve, just under water. Roughly evenly spaced out along Oregon’s coastline, the reserve sites host an incredible variety of fish and other marine life and even support birds, such as the threatened marbled murrelet. Reefs, tidepools, islands, rocky shorelines, and kelp beds provide the habitat. Each site offers access to visitors too. And scientists can use these sites to learn more about oceanic oxygen levels and temperature, microplastics in rockfish, ocean acidification, algae blooms, and other critical environmental subjects. 

Seawater rushes into Thor's Well at sunset
Thor's Well, a feature of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve

Oregon’s land use Goal 19 goes hand in hand with the values that established the reserves, working “to conserve the long-term values, benefits, and natural resources of the nearshore ocean and the continental shelf.” That’s why 1000 Friends of Oregon is part of a coalition that has signed on in support of House Bill 4132, alongside climate, conservation, and coastal-protection organizations. 

“Oregon’s final four land use planning goals protect what every Oregonian cherishes and many communities rely upon economically – our coast. These goals protect estuaries, shorelands, beaches, and the nearby ocean resources, carrying further what Governor Oswald West started in 1913 by making all beaches accessible to the public, and what Governor Tom McCall continued in 1967 with passage of the Beach Bill,” says our deputy director, Mary Kyle McCurdy. “Passage of HB 4132 would provide this legacy of stewardship and enable education and scientific research of ocean resources for generations to come.”

Time is running out to pass HB 4132 during this legislative session. Use the action alert hosted by coalition member Environment Oregon,* to tell legislators that you want funding for the Marine Reserves Program to pass before the session ends.


*By using the form hosted by our partner, you will be sharing your data with them, not 1000 Friends of Oregon.