Portland Audubon’s Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary Expands

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director; and Paul Engelmeyer, Ten Mile Sanctuary Manager

Portland Audubon begins 2022 with exciting news. In early January we will complete a land acquisition that will double the size of our Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary near Yachats, Oregon!

Cape Perpetua landscape
Cape Perpetua landscape, photo by Zak Shelhamer.

Portland Audubon owns and manages four wildlife sanctuaries: our headquarters adjacent to Forest Park in Portland, the Miller Sanctuary near the Bull Run on Mt. Hood, and Ten Mile Creek and Pine Tree Sanctuaries on the Central Oregon Coast. These sanctuaries provide important wildlife habitat, allow us to explore and advance innovative restoration strategies, are a base for camps and programs, and extend opportunities for the community to enjoy and explore nature.

Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary was first acquired by National Audubon in 1990 at the peak of the battles to protect Oregon’s old-growth forests and protect old-growth-dependent species like the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. Longtime forest activist Paul Engelmeyer approached Portland Audubon and National Audubon about a 120-acre parcel of land along Ten Mile Creek that included an old homestead and native old-growth forest that was slated for harvest. Paul argued that acquiring this parcel would give Audubon a more powerful voice as a stakeholder in the ancient forest battles and would help catalyze grassroots efforts to protect the largest tract of coastal temperate rainforest left in the lower 48 states, in which Ten Mile is embedded. Rick Brown, who still serves on Portland Audubon’s Conservation Committee today, and the legendary Brock Evans at National Audubon saw the wisdom in Paul’s vision and made the acquisition happen. Paul was hired as the Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary Manager, a role that he holds to this day. At Paul’s behest, National Audubon would later add another 96 acres of habitat called Pine Tree Sanctuary just up the road and in 2004, National Audubon decided to transfer ownership of both properties to Portland Audubon.

In 2020, at the peak of the COVID pandemic, we were approached by the Shotpouch Foundation, which owns 40- and 80-acre tracts of forest abutting the ends of our Ten Mile parcel. The foundation had been inspired to purchase these properties after attending one of Paul’s restoration work parties at Ten Mile, but in recent years has consolidated its priorities in another watershed. We have partnered with Shotpouch for years, and consolidation of their properties into our sanctuary made total sense. Thanks to three amazing anonymous donors, we were able to raise the funding to acquire these properties in record time. The transfer will become final this month!

Paul Engelmeyer in Ten Mile Sanctuary, phot by Kelsey Kuhnhausen.

Doubling the size of Ten Mile Sanctuary will allow us to continue Paul’s incredible work restoring these beautiful parcels for federally listed Marbled Murrelets, Northern Spotted Owls, and coastal Coho salmon. This work is done with a variety of partners including agencies, researchers, and groups such as the Angell Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, which provides young people with essential job skills. Ten Mile Sanctuary also hosts our annual Marbled Murrelet survey training and provides a base for us to provide educational visits for the public, practitioners and decision-makers to engage and educate them about coastal conservation efforts. It is a gorgeous parcel of Sitka spruce and hemlock rainforest that leaves visitors inspired to join the fight to protect our mature and old-growth forests that continue to this day.

Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary also remains at the core of the bigger vision that Paul first laid out to Portland and National Audubon more than 30 years ago, and that vision has grown dramatically. Today, in addition to his work managing Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary, Paul continues to focus his efforts on protecting habitat across nearly a million acres in the Central Coast Range that includes the adjacent Cummins Creek Wilderness and Rock Creek Wilderness and which Reed Noss, in his 1993 analysis “A Conservation plan for the Coast Range Bioregion,” ranked as the highest priority for protection in the Coast Range. This area is a stronghold for multiple conservation priority species, including the federally listed Marbled Murrelet, and has been designated as a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by National Audubon and Birdlife International.

Marbled Murrelet chick in an old growth forest, photo by Aaron, Allred

Today our coastal conservation program focuses on the land-sea connection: recognizing the importance of preserving and restoring healthy, connected ecosystems from the Coast Range out into the ocean. This connection is reflected in the life cycle of coastal Coho salmon, which spend most of their lives in freshwater and return to spawn in their natal stream after an incredible ocean migration. It’s reflected in Marbled Murrelets, which spend their lives at sea feeding on forage fish, sometimes diving to depths of 200 feet. The birds then fly to mature forests to nest, as much as 50 miles inland. Protecting blocks of habitat for the murrelet and other older-forest-dependent species is a landscape conservation vision that needs to be embraced by our federal and state agencies.

Current coastal priorities:

    • Protect and expand the system of marine reserves and marine protected areas
    • Increase protections for rocky shoreline habitats, which comprise 40% of Oregon’s coastline and provide important nesting habitat for birds
    • Increase protections for Oregon’s estuaries and carbon-sequestering eelgrass habitats
    • Advance habitat conservation plans for the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott State Forests to protect federally listed species, including Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and coastal Coho salmon
    • Increase riparian protections under Oregon’s Forest Practices Act, which covers more than 10 million acres of private forestland, much of it in the Coast Range
    • Ensure that offshore wind development, which will see significant growth in the coming years, is sited appropriately to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to wildlife
Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary sign
Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary sign, photo by Bob Sallinger.

This is long-term, landscape-scale, transformative work. It spans decades and generations. Having a sanctuary at Ten Mile Creek keeps us grounded both literally and figuratively. It is a place where we can put our policies into practice. It is a place where we can advance research to inform our advocacy. It is a place where we can build a wide range of partnerships and be part of the community. And it is a place of inspiration for our organization and those we seek to inspire. We greatly appreciate the long-term partnership of the Shotpouch Foundation and look forward to fully integrating the Shotpouch properties into Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary. We also greatly appreciate the three anonymous donors who immediately knew the magic of Ten Mile and made this acquisition possible.

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Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary is not open to the general public. However, visits to Ten Mile can be arranged through Paul Engelmeyer | pengelmeyer@peak.org