Coastal Edge Rainforest Reserve Largest Conservation Initiative in North Coast Land Conservancy History

In November 2016 North Coast Land Conservancy took the first steps toward the acquisition of approximately 3,500* acres of timberland between Arch Cape and Manzanita, Oregon, marking the single largest conservation initiative in the Conservancy’s history. The agreement with Onion Peak Holdings, a private investment entity, gives NCLC a unique opportunity to arrange the financing required to acquire the property in phases within the next five years. The transaction is on track to becoming the largest single private acquisition of land for conservation in western Oregon.

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The rocky Onion Peak complex east of Arch Cape lies at the heart of property North Coast Land Conservancy is in the process of acquiring. Photos by Randall Henderson

The proposed Rainforest Reserve is in the heart of what NCLC characterizes as the “Coastal Edge,” an area between Tillamook Head and Nehalem Bay where mountain peaks abruptly rise 3,000 feet within 1 mile of the shoreline, creating an unusually compressed, biogeographically concentrated ecosystem unlike anywhere else in Oregon. The Conservancy’s goal is to transition the property to long-term, local, conservation-oriented ownership and management. It will be the first place in Oregon, and one of few places in the world, where an entire coastal watershed is permanently conserved, from the headwaters to the ocean. Together with Oswald West State Park and Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, this acquisition will create a contiguous conservation corridor of more than 29 square miles linking land and sea.

“For nearly a decade, NCLC has been envisioning this monumental act of conservation,” said NCLC Executive Director Katie Voelke. “This agreement is the first on-the-ground step in making this vision a reality. Now the fun begins: working with the whole community on a program that will conserve this special land, water, and wildlife for all time to come.”

Samuel Boardman, Oregon’s first state park superintendent, originally envisioned this property as an extension of Oswald West and Nehalem Bay state parks, which he created beginning in the 1930s. He hoped that, altogether, it would become “one of the outstanding natural parks in the nation,” stretching from the ocean shore to the tops of the adjacent coastal-fronting mountains. An agreement with Onion Peak Holdings to acquire the property puts NCLC in a position to advance Sam Boardman’s vision. The Conservancy is seeking conservation dollars from public agencies and private donations to enable this acquisition.

In the interim period, Ecotrust Forest Management will manage the property on behalf of Onion Peak Holdings. EFM facilitated the acquisition of a larger holding of about 5,000 acres from Stimson Lumber Company, which had owned the property since 2004. Stimson Lumber Company, with roots dating back to the 1850s, is one of the oldest continuously operating integrated wood products companies in the United States and currently owns and operates on more than 500,000 acres and six mills. Stimson Lumber Company will reinvest the funds raised from this sale in other strategic timberlands in Oregon and other regions. “Stimson Lumber is deeply committed to the landscape and communities of western Oregon, and parting with this property was a difficult decision,” said Scott Gray, Director of Western Resources. “We were compelled by the uniqueness of the property and the Coastal Edge vision and the potential long-term benefit to the public through the realization of this vision.”

EFM, a forestland investment management company, manages some 32,000 acres in Oregon and Washington. “We are grateful to Stimson Lumber for this opportunity and look forward to stewarding this unique property, including enhancing its timber, carbon, habitat and water provision values while working toward the ultimate acquisition by North Coast Land Conservancy and its partners,” said EFM CEO Bettina von Hagen.

NCLC has been working since 1986 to conserve and connect the landscape of the Oregon Coast from the Columbia River to northern Lincoln County by acquiring or otherwise managing lands for their habitat value. With a portfolio of 46 fee-title properties, NCLC has completed more fee acquisitions in Oregon than any other local land trust, ranking it alongside The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Lands for statewide conservation impact. The nationally accredited private, non-profit land trust, based in Seaside, works to ensure that this extraordinary region is a place where healthy communities of people, plants and wildlife can all thrive.

*Total area was originally announced as 3300 acres. Updated figure is the result of lot line adjustments.