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Cod and Baked Beans

I grew up on asphalt near the streets of Boston, Massachusetts. Every Friday night, cod and baked beans graced our dinner table. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that weekly meal became a part of who I was, where I grew up, and the connections I made to New England. That meal created a coastal connection for me, one which remains with me to this day.

Today, I’m an Oregonian, and while I cannot boast of being a 7th generation Oregonian, I can tell you I’ve pitched a tent on Steens Mountain, pulled a crab pot off the Oregon Coast, harvested an elk with a muzzeloader, and hiked the wondrous trails of Opal Creek. I definitely consider myself an Oregonian.

In a few weeks, the Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership and Oregon State University are hosting a small workshop in Newport to engage in discussions with people of all backgrounds and interests about how we connect to and value Oregon’s marine reserves. It’s going to be an interesting discussion.

From my perspective, marine reserves are living laboratories, places we have designated to conduct research to better understand the status and functioning of our nearshore ocean. Will they someday mean and be more than that? Only time will tell. I only know that we cannot value what we do not relate to, so I’m hoping all Oregonians learn about why Oregon created marine reserves and what information we are learning as we study these ecosystems. Cod and baked beans helped me to develop a relationship with coasts and oceans – what connects you to Oregon’s marine reserves?

Ocean Heroes

You may think of Yachats, Oregon, as a dot on the Oregon coast, but that dot was big enough to attract more than 60 of the world’s leading grassroots advocates from 30 countries last Sunday to convene the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide’s 2015 ELAW Annual International Meeting.  They came to strengthen their efforts back home to help communities speak out for clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet.

“Our partners are inspired by the beauty and power of the Oregon Coast, and eager to learn about local efforts to protect this vital ecosystem,” says Maggie Keenan, ELAW Communications Director.

Paul Engelmeyer, Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary Manager and Coastal IBA Coordinator, met the group on Tuesday for a tour of Cape Perpetua, Gwynn Creek old-growth hike, tidepooling at Neptune Beach, and Strawberry Hill. He gave a presentation on the conservation efforts protecting coastal watersheds and restoring native salmon habitat. “Sharing our conservation efforts here on the central coast – from the Marine Important Bird Areas – ‘Baja to Barrow’ to the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve/Seabird Protected Area and the Forage Fish campaign shows how connected our efforts are to a larger vision of healthy forests, watersheds and ocean.”  The Midcoast Watershed Council recently celebrated it’s 20 Anniversary of work here on the central coast and will pass the $10ML mark of restoration activities to improve watershed conditions for salmon and our communities this month.

Paul Engelemeyer of the Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership and Audubon Society of Portland hosting a tour for ELAW participants.

Paul Engelemeyer of the Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership and Audubon Society of Portland hosting a tour for ELAW participants.

Fernando Ochoa, Executive Director of Defensa Ambiental del Norestse (DAN), a non-profit organization working to protect gray whale and whale shark breeding grounds in Northwest Mexico, said: “The whales I saw swimming up the Oregon Coast are the same whales I see from my home in Baja California. We all share the oceans and I’m thrilled to learn about how Oregonians are working to protect their oceans.”

Ochoa launched DAN ten years ago to take on the enormous Escalera Nautica project — a series of marinas and ports that would have industrialized the Baja California peninsula and radically altered the world-class landscape, devastating marine mammal habitt. DAN stopped the marina, and the phone has not stopped ringing since.

Diana McCaulay, Executive Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), was also inspired by Engelmeyer’s tour. “In most ways the Oregon Coast could hardly be more different than the coast of Jamaica,” she said. “But learning about programs in Oregon to protect marine resources, I realize that the issues are the same — it’s about understanding and protecting the connections that make our oceans healthy. I loved being here!”

ELAW Ocean Heroes!

ELAW Ocean Heroes!

And we loved having you here, ELAW ocean heroes. Thanks for letting us share Yachats and the beauty of the Oregon coast with you!

Oregon on My Mind

Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

This picture of the Sonoran desert hardly looks like Oregon, despite the fact that Oregon does indeed have desert – it’s just that Oregon’s desert is high desert, and it looks drastically different from the Sonoran desert. But what, you might ask, does any of this have to do with marine reserves?

Every winter, I get the itch to travel to the Sonoran desert, not because Oregon’s winters are difficult to handle – but because the desert is so alive in the late winter and early spring as migratory birds begin to arrive. In a good year, when there has been a great deal of rainfall in the fall and early winter, the Sonoran desert explodes with flowers and greenery – and people.

Snowbirds of all kinds – from Ontario and Alberta, Canada as well as northern United States, such as Montana and Maine – can be found populating most of the campgrounds in late winter near Tucson, Arizona. And it is there that we usually bump into the occasional Portlander or Oregonian, who just couldn’t take the rain anymore and had to head south – even in a winter like 2015 when I’ve been able to bike hundreds of miles on crystal clear bluebird sunny days.

This year, during a brief foray south, we ran into a couple from Portland at a campground just north of Tucson. They had lost their older dog during the winter, and were starting afresh by hitting the road, experiencing some sun, and stopping at the local humane society to welcome a newcomer to their family. It was at this campground that I met “Tuscon Tuck,” a mixed breed 5-month old dog that took to his new owners like he had been traveling his entire life, even though they met him a mere two weeks earlier.

We chatted about Oregon, sharing political and other views. And at some point during the conversation, the Oregon couple shared their hopes for their new dog. It wasn’t about him getting the opportunity to be at one of Portland’s many dog parks, or enjoying the cool, summer days Oregon offers. No, this couple wanted to share their favorite Oregon place with their dog – a place where there’s sand between the toes, incredible vista’s, and the ocean – their favorite beach, which coincidentally happens to be located near one of Oregon’s five marine reserves.

Even well over 1,000 miles away, Oregonians feel the attachment to their special Oregon places, and enthusiastically describe in detail the special elements of those places that define us as Oregonians and illustrate our commitment to the state and its wealth of natural resources.

I don’t know who came up with the song, “Georgia on my mind,” but for this displaced Oregon couple, after spending more than a month on the road, Oregon was definitely on their mind.

When you walk the beach near your favorite marine reserve this spring, you may see a little dog that looks like he’s part wire-haired terrier, poodle, and a little bit of something else. Enjoy sharing the beach with Tucson Tuck – he’ll have come a long way to experience what Oregon has to offer.

Making Connections

Cascade Head

Cascade Head Marine Reserve lies off Cascade Head (pictured) on the Oregon coast. Photo by Ben Nieves.

Making Connections

Someone asked me the other day what the Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership does. We do many things. But essentially, our job is to help the public “connect” – to bring awareness, meaning and understanding – to marine reserves and protected areas.

Some people may earn their living fishing near marine reserves – their connection to them goes much deeper than the fish that supply our local restaurants and dinner tables; it’s a deeper connection rooted in maritime history and generations of fishers.

Other people may have the opportunity one day to take a boat trip out to or near one of Oregon’s five marine reserves and protected areas – their once-in-a-lifetime whale watching trip will create a long-lasting impression and deep personal connection to the amazing migration whales undergo through Oregon.

Some might participate in our annual photo contest to capture images of many things – people, birds, sea lions – to help tell the story of marine reserves and their meaning to many kinds of life, and thus to us.

But most everyone that has the chance will ultimately connect to these places, not by touching or experiencing them firsthand, but by learning about them from afar, wondering in fascination about the 16 green sturgeon that were tagged in two California Rivers that migrated north through the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve in southern Oregon, and valuing them for the contribution they play as living laboratories that help us understand the functioning and processes of the special place we call the ocean.

Granted, it would be a lot easier to answer the question of what we do if our jobs were truck driver or pet sitter. But helping people connect, to find richer and deeper meaning to things around us, to “interpret” our natural resources, while it may be more difficult to explain, brings dividends and rewards that truly defy description.

“Probably the most common error in creating interpretive matter of all kinds derives from the fact that the writer has in mind the question: What is it I wish to say? It is of no importance whatever, as yet, what I wish to say. I have not reached that point. The important thing is: What would the prospective reader wish to read? And what can I say in brief, inspiring, and luring terms about this area in language that he will readily comprehend? – Freeman Tilden