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Conservation High on the Coastal Edge


Onion Peak summit (photo by Mike Patterson)

One of North Coast Land Conservancy’s largest conserved properties is now a 387-acre expanse of forest and subalpine meadow high on Onion Peak, directly east of the community of Arch Cape in southern Clatsop County. The property is owned by two timber companies—Stimson Lumber Company and Campbell Global—but is managed for conservation rather than timber harvest under a conservation easement arranged by The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon office. On October 31, TNC transferred the easement to North Coast Land Conservancy.


Chambers’ paintbrush (photo by Mike Patterson)

At 3,057 feet elevation, Onion Peak is the second-highest point in Clatsop County, behind only Saddle Mountain and an unnamed peak about 1 mile to the southwest. Like Saddle Mountain, Onion Peak’s summit is characterized by rocky basalt outcroppings and open treeless meadows—known among botanists as balds—and is home to a wide array of plant species, some of which are unique to this peak or to a handful of coastal balds in this region, including Chambers’ paintbrush (Castilleja chambersii) and Queen-of-the-forest (Filipendula occidentalis). For some other plant species, Onion Peak represents the farthest limit of their range, such as copperbush (Ellotia pyroliflora), spotted saxifrage (Saxifraga bronchialis var. vespertina)  and rosy lewisia (Lewisia columbiana var. rupicola).  Onion Peak Habitat Reserve represents an important island of conservation amid a large expanse of marketable timber.

This conservation easement represents inauguration of NCLC’s fledgling Coastal Edge Conservation Initiative, one of five such initiatives NCLC has identified to help it better target key habitat types and ecological values within its service area. Onion Peak Habitat Reserve is part of a 947-acre transfer of fee title properties and conservation easements, from The Nature Conservancy to North Coast Land Conservancy, completed on October 31. The Nature Conservancy in Oregon and NCLC have a long history of collaboration within the NCLC service area. These transfers ensure the protection of these ecologically rich areas while also allowing TNC to advance additional conservation priorities around the state.


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