Why is Bandon Marsh Refuge Considering an Expanded Boundary?
The Need for Conservation
The fish and wildlife resources within the lower Coquille River estuary are of local, national, and international importance. Although greatly diminished, the Coquille River estuary supports economically and culturally important runs of Pacific lamprey, Chinook salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, and federally-listed threatened coho salmon. This estuary is also an important stopover area for fall and spring migrant shorebirds and waterfowl. However, this estuary has suffered the highest percentage loss of tidal marsh habitat in Oregon. Approximately 95% of its tidal marsh habitat and 93% of its forested/shrub wetlands have been lost, resulting in impacts to this hydrologic system, its habitats, and the estuarine-dependent fish and wildlife populations that use this area.
Exploring Opportunities to Conserve and Protect Wildlife and Habitats
Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge or NWR), established in 1983, conserves 889 acres of land in fee title ownership within an approved refuge boundary of 1,000 acres, representing a valuable contribution to the protection of fish and wildlife in the Coquille River estuary. In September 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS) received approval to initiate a Land Protection Planning (LPP) study to investigate the possibility of expanding the approved refuge boundary of Bandon Marsh Refuge to meet the needs of fish, wildlife, and public recreational use. Refuge boundary expansion would contribute to achieving the Service's mission and the Refuge's purposes by:
Protection and restoration of lower Coquille estuary habitats would also contribute to the recovery of listed species and other species of conservation concern.
- Enabling the restoration of tidal marsh, forested wetlands, and riparian corridors.
- Providing high quality habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl, salmonids, and other fish and wildlife.
- Allowing for expanded wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities on public lands.
Some parcels included in the study area contain quality wildlife habitat that has been maintained and enhanced; however, other parcels could benefit from a conservation partnership with USFWS, whether it be acquisition, easement, or technical assistance. The Refuge boundary expansion study will analyze the value of the USFWS initiating additional habitat restoration and enhancement along the lower Coquille River to protect, conserve and restore wildlife for the American public.
In early November 2011, the public was invited to participate in the planning process. Preliminary alternatives detailing how the refuge would be managed during the next 15 years were developed as part of the Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) process. However, in early February 2012, the Service made the decision to separate the CCP from the boundary expansion study. This schedule change was made to allow the CCP to continue on pace while allowing more time for thorough analysis and study of the LPP range of alternatives. The LPP process would include additional opportunities for public involvement and discussions of important issues and opportunities with the area's landowners and the greater community.
In August 2013, the USFWS made the decision to suspend the boundary expansion study due to limited funding and resources. Consequently, a draft land protection plan will not be released for public comment at this time. The Service maintains its interest in the land protection planning study and will resume the study in the future as additional resources become available.