June 26, Portland, Oregon —An unparalleled stretch of coastal open space at the south end of Tillamook County’s Sand Lake is one step closer to permanent protection today, after the Oregon State Parks Commission agreed to purchase the Beltz Farm property from Ecotrust.
“For a wild stretch of the Oregon Coast, this is as good as it gets,” says Spencer Beebe, Ecotrust founder and chairman and a fourth-generation Oregonian. “Beltz Farm contains critical wetlands, unique plant communities, and habitat for salmon and shorebirds. It deserves to be permanently protected and restored for the common wealth of all Oregonians. And so we applaud the Oregon State Parks Commission in moving forward on this transaction.”
The state will use Oregon Lottery funds to buy the property from Ecotrust for up to $1.8 million – the same price Ecotrust paid for the property in May. Oregon State Parks has indicated that, pending appraisal, it will complete its purchase by the end of August.
“The Sand Lake estuary is one of the most pristine, intact areas on the coast,” says Jay Graves, Oregon State Parks Commission chair. “These kinds of opportunities are rare, and directly contribute to the physical and economic health of the community. I’m pleased we and Ecotrust were in the right place at the right time to make this happen.”
Located on the north coast between Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City, Sand Lake is one of Oregon’s least developed estuaries, including approximately 1,250 acres of open water, tidal flat, emergent marsh, and forested wetlands. At the southern end of the estuary is a 357-acre property known as Beltz Farm, containing ocean beaches, wetlands, and forests that are important habitat for birds, mammals, and salmon. The property connects the ocean and estuary to the Siuslaw National Forest to the east.
Ecotrust purchased the Beltz Farm property in May with the intention of selling it to the Oregon State Parks system. The state’s documented interest in acquiring this property dates to the 1960s. In recent years, golf course developers have unsuccessfully tried to acquire and develop the property. Development is challenging because of difficult access and abundant wetlands.
Mike Keiser, owner of Bandon Dunes, is playing an important role in assuring the availability of financing for the acquisition of Sand Lake by Oregon State Parks. Mr. Keiser commented, “Without like-minded organizations such as Ecotrust stepping forward to preserve Oregon’s remaining pristine ecosystems, purchases like this for the benefit of Oregon’s present and future citizens will not occur. I am pleased to be a part of this initiative to protect Sand Lake and other efforts like it, such as the recent public acquisition of Whales’ Cove on the central Oregon coast.” Mr. Keiser’s Wild Rivers Coast Alliance and Bandon Biota initiatives are working to help stabilize the economy and protect the environment on the southern Oregon coast. A new project , Bandon Links, will combine a protected environment with hiking trails and a public golf course on a site south of Bandon.
Classified as a relatively pristine estuary, Sand Lake is the only remaining estuary of its size on the Oregon Coast that is dominated by a diverse set of native plant associations, due to very little agricultural or commercial development.
The complex of beaches, dunes, tidal and freshwater marshes on Beltz Farm is considered one of the best remaining unprotected coastal remnants. The property and Sand Lake estuary support a large bird population, with recent surveys identifying more than 43 species, including the bald eagle, dunlin, rufous hummingbird, and willow flycatcher, which are all North Coast basin priority species. Bear and cougar have been sighted on the property and it provides important habitat for coho and chum salmon and steelhead.
Communities around the property have shown strong support for its protection during recent public meetings. The purchase by Oregon State Parks is unanimously supported by Tillamook County Commissioners.
Among other key protection initiatives, Ecotrust worked with the Haisla to reserve the 800,000-acre Kitlope River valley in northern British Columbia, the largest unlogged watershed on the entire West Coast.
The organization also aided in the protection of the Copper River Delta in Alaska and the Clayquot Sound area of Vancouver Island, important lands for local communities and economies.
EFM arranged the Beltz Farm transaction on behalf of Ecotrust. EFM is a for-profit subsidiary of Ecotrust engaged in forestland investment management, conservation finance, and New Markets Tax Credit and carbon credit advisory services. EFM manages 30,000 acres of forestland in Oregon and Washington through two private investment funds and advises conservation, community, and tribal entities on forestland acquisition, including negotiation, real estate diligence, structuring, and financing services.
Read more about the state parks commission’s decision.
Ecotrust’s mission is to foster a natural model of development that creates more resilient communities, economies and ecosystems here and around the world. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding an environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries,forestry, food, farms and indigenous affairs,and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it takes inspiration from the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership. Learn more at www.ecotrust.org @ ecotrust