North Coast Land Conservancy: Finding common ground with land owners to preserve native wildlife and ecosystems for the future

North Coast Land Conservancy Executive Director Katie Voelke and Neal Maine, a founder of the NCLC, are helping to preserve native wildlife and ecological systems along the North Coast for future generations.

North Coast Land Conservancy Executive Director Katie Voelke and Neal Maine, a founder of the NCLC, are helping to preserve native wildlife and ecological systems along the North Coast for future generations.

Story by CASSANDRA PROFITA • Photos by ALEX PAJUNAS

As daylight fades to dusk, Neal Maine leads a dozen people along a path of flattened grass in Stanley Marsh.

“We’ll be following coyote trails,” he says.

Maine’s job on this hike is to guide the group through the nocturnal world of wildlife that emerges after the sun sets. It’s a world of coyotes, bats and beautiful white, furry moths that you won’t see unless you go outside at night, he explains.

“We think of the dark as the time when things slow down,” Maine says. “In fact, it’s more of the same for 90 percent of the creatures on planet Earth.”

A founder of the North Coast Land Conservancy, Maine has a way of seeing things on the landscape that most people miss — even at night.

With a frequency converter, he turns inaudible bat calls into signals you can hear. He drapes a sheet over an A-frame and sets a lantern under it to create a nighttime moth viewing area. A motion-triggered trail camera, he says, can capture images of mountain lions and other wildlife that might otherwise evade him.

“Go outside at night and start listening, smelling and feeling,” Maine says. “There’s this nighttime world hopping around out here.”

You could argue that night vision is just one of many superpowers shared by Maine and the North Coast Land Conservancy. Over the years, they’ve shown they can look at a dairy pasture and see a forested swamp. They see a thousand tidal marsh habitat functions where others see condos.

Photo by Cassandra Profita // Neal Maine uses a beaver skull to demonstrate how beavers use two large tusk-like teeth to chew through trees during a hike through Stanley Marsh.

Photo by Cassandra Profita // Neal Maine uses a beaver skull to demonstrate how beavers use two large tusk-like teeth to chew through trees during a hike through Stanley Marsh.

Since 1986, the Seaside-based land trust has built an empire of more than 3,000 acres of conservation land from Astoria to Lincoln City. And it all started with a new way of looking at the land on the Oregon Coast.

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