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Part of Ecologically-Unique Oregon Coast Land at Cape Foulweather Returning to Siletz Tribe

Published 05/24/23 at 7:22 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Part of Ecologically-Unique Oregon Coast Land at Cape Foulweather Returning to Siletz Tribe

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(Depoe Bay, Oregon) – About a third of a mile of pristine and ecologically-delicate Oregon coast land is slowly getting returned to its original owners: The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. A $2.01 million grant was in recent years awarded through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, assisting to secure the funds.

The area is just below the main lookout atop Cape Foulweather, primarily encompassing the steep slope and an area just south of it. This change is not affecting the viewpoint. It will, however, help correct part of a broken promise over 150 years ago when U.S treaties with local tribes were completely ignored. This small parcel of the central Oregon coast is considered culturally and ecologically significant. The move will assure the stewardship of the area in the future.

Cape Foulweather is considered a rather rare section of rocky shore along the Oregon coast, with a salt spray meadow and Sitka Spruce forest that are distinctive habitats.

The meadow is left undisturbed and intact because of its impassable perch on the side of the former massive lava flow. Thus, it is a nursery habitat for the Oregon Silverspot butterfly, which is an endangered species and federally protected. This meadow tract is also home to other species, often singular to this spot on the central Oregon coast alone.

Spruce forests create much-needed habitats for the marbled murrelet, an endangered seabird which often requires old growth trees like these for their nests. Below, the rocks are important haulouts for harbor seals.

Map of the section of the cape going to the Siletz Tribe

Now, that shoreline will be permanently preserved by its original caretakers, remaining a visual wonder while also bolstering the resilience of the Tribe and the local community.

As the Siletz people regain a small parcel of the traditional homeland, it is still the only area they own with coastal access.

According to Stan van de Wetering, Biological Programs Manager for the Tribe, it's a move that's been in the works for them for decades. Their ancestral lands were initially taken from them early on, but some wer returned in 1855 in a treaty that created the Siletz Coastal Reservation of 1.1 million acres. At the time, it was supposed to be a “guaranteed” part of their homeland.

That clearly did not turn out to be the case.

“Opportunities for acquisition of small conservation lands like Cape Foulweather are allowing the Tribe to bring cultural lifeways and traditions back to its members by providing unique and ecologically healthy, quiet, and family-safe areas," Stan van de Wetering said. "The Cape Foulweather site will be the first intertidal rocky shore property recovered by the Tribe, a piece of a landscape where tribal families have gone to harvest foods and medicines from time immemorial."

Cape Foulweather is currently held by McKenzie River Trust, who purchased the property using a Craft3 bridge loan with the goal of transferring it to the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians.

Joe Moll, Executive Director of the McKenzie River Trust, said his group is thrilled to be a part of this reunion between a people and their land.

“Kudos to the state of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians for their leadership in working with NOAA,” he said.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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