Photo: Ben Hayes
Arch Cape Forest Becomes Part of Conservation Corridor on the Oregon Coast
In June, the Arch Cape Domestic Water Supply District took a major step forward in connecting the community to its drinking-water source by purchasing approximately 1,500 acres of surrounding forestland. The acquisition lays the foundation for creating the Arch Cape Community Forest.
This was no small accomplishment, coming at the conclusion of several years of planning, raising funds and collecting input from community members and other stakeholders. The district secured $5.5 million in federal funding, $250,000 in Clatsop County funding, and $300,000 in community contributions to make the purchase possible.
On its own, this project will permanently protect the source of Arch Cape’s drinking water, from headwaters to tap. A healthy forest with diverse streamside vegetation is vital to holding soil in place, preventing erosion, and improving downstream water quality.
The project also enables the district to manage the watershed primarily for the protection of the water while “providing potential conservation, recreation and economic benefits,” according to district manager Phil Chick. Lastly, it is part of a nationwide movement for communities to have more agency in how their local watersheds and drinking-water sources are managed and cared for.
However, the Arch Cape Forest is also part of a larger story of connectivity unfolding on the northern Oregon Coast. The forestland—which was acquired from Ecotrust Forests II LLC on June 9—is adjacent to North Coast Land Conservancy’s 3,500-acre Rainforest Reserve, along with Oswald West State Park and the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve. Collectively, they create a roughly 32-square-mile conservation corridor that stretches from the summits of 3,000-foot peaks within the Oregon Coast Range to Short Sand Beach and the sandy seabed and rocky reefs of the nearshore ocean. This type of protected land-to-sea corridor is unmatched in the state of Oregon.
The Arch Cape Forest is adjacent to NCLC’s Rainforest Reserve.
In fact, the Rainforest Reserve and Arch Cape Forest—while two unique projects—arose from a shared vision of protecting coastal rainforest and simultaneously sustaining a high quality of life for people, plants and wildlife. Both entities have been working for several years to advance this shared vision through their individual yet interconnected projects.
“It was such an honor to work with the district, providing support services and our expertise with fundraising, grant writing, and transactional due diligence,” NCLC Executive Director Katie Voelke said. NCLC also used the land value of a portion of the Rainforest Reserve as an in-kind match to help meet requirements of the Forest Legacy grants.
This is an example of one of NCLC’s core conservation strategies: facilitation. The organization provides services to partners working toward the conservation of a piece of land that will eventually end up in public ownership. This can include helping to facilitate negotiations between partners, raising public awareness about the importance of conserving a piece of land, assisting with grant writing and acting in an advisory capacity for the partners involved.
“We can bring our skills and expertise to the table and make community conservation happen, even if we are not the ultimate owner,” Associate Director Jon Wickersham says. “We’ve done this with state and national parks, the cities of Seaside and Cannon Beach, and now with Arch Cape Water District.”
In the case of the Arch Cape Forest, the collaboration stretched beyond the water district and NCLC. Sustainable Northwest, a regional nonprofit, provided strategic planning and project management to the core group of local volunteers and leaders over the course of the five-year campaign.
Meanwhile, the water district is working with NCLC and the Nuveen Natural Capital property management staff at Lewis & Clark Timberlands’ Gearhart office—with support from consulting planners at the NPS Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program—to outline a thoughtful and balanced approach to public access that will allow people to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest while preserving its ecological value.
A broad public stakeholder engagement process kicked off in July.