The nonprofit Cape Meares Community Association (CMCA) is leading a conservation project to help protect surrounding forestland and the Coleman Creek Watershed, while also potentially expanding the boundary of the adjacent Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In June 2023, CMCA signed a final sales agreement to purchase 107 acres of forestland in Tillamook County by May 2024. This will be a major milestone in preserving and safeguarding habitat for the community for future generations.
The parcel is adjacent to 106 acres of community forest owned by CMCA since 2007, and it will create a connection to the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge and the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint.
The ultimate goal is to sell both properties to the USFWS to expand the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge boundary and provide a potential habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet. The Conservation Fund (TCF) will serve as a bridge buyer and hold both properties until the USFWS secures the necessary federal funding.
Both partners are interested in this outcome, as the refuge hasn’t been expanded since the 1930s, according to the project team.
“It’s the best future,” CMCA President Beverly Stein, a member of CMCA’s Project team, along with Dr. Miriam Fultz and Simone Goldfeder.
North Coast Land Conservancy has worked alongside CMCA to facilitate the project, and CMCA also has engaged in an extensive outreach campaign involving local residents, county government, and other conservation organizations.
“This acquisition will be mutually beneficial to all,” Simone says. She adds that this parcel, once turned over to the refuge, will contribute to the diversity and quality of the preserved landscape in Cape Meares.
“There are these very unique characteristics about this place, this ecosystem—the bay, the wetlands, the forest wetlands, the uplands, the topography, the birds and this habitat—that could be intensified by the preservation of this property,” she says.
Cape Meares Project Background
This conservation project began in in October 2021 when the community learned of a logging operation that was underway on the 107-acre project property in the Capes Meares-Coleman Creek Watershed. Because of the logging, mud began filling a local creek.
CMCA approached the landowners about a potential acquisition and began negotiations. In September 2022, CMCA established its Project Team consisting of Simone, Miriam and Beverly. Later in the year, CMCA asked NCLC to advise on matters related to the project, such as land acquisition and forest management.
The team began by creating a project management plan and reaching out to other natural-resource organizations and agencies for advice and lessons learned. Additionally, they started building a capital management plan that included competitive federal, state, local and private grant funding.
Miriam, who led this part of the project, highlights the proactive nature of this effort.
“We used our professional contacts to find grant opportunities that fit the nature of our project,” she says. “Also, we contacted the grantors and began conversations around the fit between our project and their requirements. In fact, several grantor representatives visited the properties, and these visits helped us to strengthen our capital plan.”
This effort also involved developing a long-term plan for the land and how it could be acquired, managed, maintained, and stewarded. It took several months to assess different opportunities and partnerships, contacting potential partners, and narrowing down the best options.
A Community Effort
The CMCA project is one of many similar efforts by communities within Oregon to preserve their watersheds, including Neskowin and Arch Cape.
For Cape Meares, this initiative has relied on the support of a wide variety of individuals and organizations within the area. Even those with different interests and goals have found common ground in this vision.
“The community has really come together,” Simone says.
So far, more than 100 people have contributed to the project. This is the result of persistent efforts to communicate CMCA’s vision for the land acquisition with the community and the county through regular progress reports; presentations; walks on the land with interested entities and potential grantors; mailings; workshops; and one-on-one outreach efforts.
“We’re the little engine that could,” Beverly says, adding that persistence got them to this point in what originally seemed a daunting endeavor.
Additionally, each member of the Project Team brings different skills and strengths to the table, from communication and grassroots organizing to land-use planning, program development, strategic planning, and grants acquisition and management.
“Our various professional pursuits and expertise brought us together,” Miriam says.
They also feel fortunate to have The Conservation Fund as a partner and bridge buyer. However, the project is not done, as CMCA has until May 2024 to complete due diligence and finalize the purchase.
“There are multiple and unique aspects of this project,” Simone says, adding there are several reasons why its conservation is important, including community resiliency and emergency management; mitigating the risk of landslides to protect the community; conserving community water sources and water quality; and the wildlife and habitat biodiversity supported by the land and waters.
Ultimately, Miriam says, the vision is interconnectedness. “We’re not separate from the land. If you do one thing, it affects the wildlife, it affects the people, it affects a lot of things.”
Beverly adds, “We all value the uniqueness of this place we have the privilege of living in. So it’s up to us to be stewards of it.”
To learn more about the project and stay up to date with the campaign, visit the Cape Meares website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.