Oregon’s ‘last virgin cove’ protected in wildlife refuge


Photo courtesy of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

Zach Urness, Statesman Journal – January 22, 2015

In a step aimed at protecting the last virgin cove on the Oregon Coast, a partnership of government agencies and nonprofit organizations have purchased land in Lincoln County for the highest level of environmental protection.

The 13.97-acre property surrounds Whale Cove, 2 miles south of Depoe Bay, that will become part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The land was purchased for $1.1 million with the intent of preserving a sanctuary for marine life and nesting seabirds.

Access to the cove is off-limits to the public, except via boat, but a view can be had from Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint.

Wildlife refuges such as the Oregon Islands — which encompasses 762 acres of coastal rocks, islands and headlands along 320 miles of coastline — are generally closed to the public.

The cove is valued for its pristine condition, said David Fox, marine habitat project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It offers researchers and resource managers the only virgin cove in Oregon,” Fox said. “Whale Cove’s rocky intertidal community is rich and diverse. In the absence of human trampling and harvest, the intertidal community reaches its full potential.”

The property was home to multiple development proposals until Bryce and Beebe Buchanan purchased the property in the early 2000s with the idea of eventually conserving it.

The property was valued at $2.25 million, but the owners accepted a price of $1.1 million, government agencies said in a press release.

Raising enough money for the purchase brought together a collection of federal, state, nonprofit and private interests.

A grant for $650,000 was provided by the Federal Highway Administration in 2008 and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department came up with a matching grant of $450,000 through Bandon Biota, the Oregon business that runs Bandon Dunes Golf Course.

“One of the parts of our mission, in addition to recreation, is protecting scenic quality of the Oregon Coast,” said Chris Havel, spokesman for the state parks system. “This is a place Oregonians can feast on with their eyes for years to come by protecting it from development.”

The North Coast Land Conservancy negotiated a deal with the Buchanan family. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will manage the site in perpetuity as part of the wildlife refuge.