By Eric Tegethoff
Oregon's estuaries - the wetlands where the ocean meets rivers and streams - are rich habitat for wildlife, and they even store carbon from the atmosphere to help fight climate change. But the state's plans to manage them are now decades old. That's why Oregon is setting out to update them. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development is piloting this revision project with the Yaquina River estuary management plan. Katie Ryan is the executive director of The Wetlands Conservancy, which is part of the update project on the Yaquina River. "These estuary management plans are outdated," said Ryan, "and they just don't take into account the current challenges that land managers have in these estuaries." Oregon's estuary plans were developed in the 1980s. However, some vital elements were left out of the original process, including the involvement of tribal nations. This time around, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians is part of the steering committee and advisory group on the first revision of the Yaquina River plan.
Ryan said estuaries are an important part of Oregon's goal to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. "Our coastal wetlands store carbon and actually, in a lot of ways, hold more carbon than our forests do," said Ryan. "We just have quite a few left - tidal wetlands - than we do forests. So, they help with climate change by helping store carbon." Ryan noted that estuaries also are rich and crucial habitats for shorebirds, as well as juvenile salmon.
She said that's important for the economy. "In terms of this robust fishing industry that happens on this Oregon coast, our estuaries are huge for helping to support those economies," said Ryan. "So, I think just looking at the economies that rely on our estuaries - we want to make sure that the plans, you know, take their business into account."