February 27, 2012
At the last County Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners failed to pass the resolution to stop The Bandon Marsh Expansion. There were only two commissioners present, Main and Messerle. Commissioner Main stated the resolution was not restrictive enough on the non-governmental organizations involved in the expansion, and therefore, he could not vote for it.
They decided to rewrite the Resolution to be more specific to the situation and palatable enough to pass the Board. The commissioners will bring up the expansion at the next regularly scheduled BOC meeting on March 6th. Let us hope Commissioner Main keeps his word and is not playing politics with this very important subject.
Here is some History of “The Bandon Marsh”
It was the American Indian who had the first pleasure of enjoying the beauty and bounty of one of America’s natural treasures known as the Bandon Marsh. The ancestors of the Coquille Indian Tribe subsisted for centuries on the marsh's riches for survival.
The first homestead was established when Thompson Lowe took up a donation land claim of one square mile on the south side of the Coquille River in 1853. By 1890 the City of Bandon had a population of 219, according to the census. There was a large mill built after the first major fire of 1914 by The Dollar Steamship Company on the south bank of the river, just east of the bridge on highway 101.
In 1983, Congress established The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge with the acquisition of 304 acres of salt marsh, mudflats, and tidal sloughs. The Bandon Marsh Unit, as it is now known, is located near the mouth of the Coquille River, with approximately 75 percent of the Unit within the city limits of Bandon, Oregon.
Congress in 1999 approved expanding the refuge by 577 acres. The next year, The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) used federal funds to buy the 408-acre Dave Philpott Ranch, among other parcels of property.
The (USFWS) purchased the ranch from the Bussmann family. It was renamed the Ni-les'tun Unit and added to the refuge in order to protect and restore the intertidal marsh. People can see this area from Bullard’s Bridge looking east of Highway 101 on the north bank of the Coquille River.
The total land mass of The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge consists of 889 acres, and in September of 2011 the largest salt marsh restoration project in Oregon History was finally completed.
The purpose for establishing the marsh as a National Wildlife Refuge was for the preservation and enhancement of the highly significant wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, The Service closed off The Ni-les’tun Unit soon after it
was established. There is no public access allowed in the area’s fertile hunting ground, with few notable exceptions.
What is a Comprehensive Conservation Plan?
In 1997, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act amended The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966. These changes required that (USFWS) develop a Comprehensive Conservation
Plan (CCP) for each national wildlife refuge.
The reason for developing a (CCP) is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal mandates, and policies.
Subsequently, The (USFWS) has to implement an environmental assessment (EA) to evaluate the potential effects of various (CCP) alternatives. These studies can lead to new rules and regulations for the area that can have adverse and costly effects to adjacent property owners.
Expanding The Marsh
January of 2011, The Dept of Interior under Secretary Ken Salazar sent out a press release explaining their plans to give more than $19 million in our tax dollars to the National Coastal Wetlands Grant Program to fund 24 conservation projects covering over 5900 acres of coastal habitat in 12 different states. The (USFWS) administers this grant program, and there is another $21 million in matching funds in partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.
In March of 2011, The Service proposed designating 30,497 acres of critical habitat in 68 units in Washington, Oregon and California. And, as recently as Jan. 17th of this year, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-LA secured more than $34.5 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund.
Currently, the (USFWS) is expecting to get congressional approval sometime in the late part of 2012 to add up to 4500 acres to the Bandon Marsh Refuge. The Service plans on achieving this goal by acquiring more land from willing sellers along the banks of The Coquille River. This expansion will go up North Bank Lane almost to the 11th mile marker continuing further southeast into the Coquille Valley. Subsequently, there is another 3000 acres under consideration for acquisition, which was not detailed in The Bandon Marsh Expansion, but comes from the Coquille Valley Wetland Conservation and Restoration Proposal dated June of 2010.
There were three preliminary drafts to come out of the (CCP) for The Bandon Marsh Refuge and the (USFWS) is propagating Preliminary Draft Land Protection Alternative C, which coincidently is the largest in land mass of all the drafts.
There are 154 distinct parcels covering over 4500 acres of land included in Alternative C. The Total Real Market Value would be around $24,524,243, with a total Assessed Value of $9,729,043. Besides the listed properties in the perspective area, the (USFWS) has been working with The Nature Conservancy to obtain even more property in other areas of Coos County and the state.
The Consequences of Allowing This Federal Land Grab
If the (USFWS) acquires all the property it is requesting, then Coos County stands to lose $101,508 in gross property taxes per year, and that amount increases with every piece of land The Service takes off the tax roll.
There is an estimated 20 children living within the area that attend school in the Bandon School District. Each child is worth $6000 to the district, which will equate to a loss of $120,000 to the Bandon school system. The county also loses future generations of farmers and ranchers that produce the meats and vegetables for locals and many others throughout the country. Developing a working farm and/or ranch takes generations of learning the soil conditions, weather and growth patterns of the local environment and we stand to lose that experience and wisdom.
The families who live in the proposed expansion area will not be here to go shopping in the community, or to eat in the restaurants, or go the local theater. They will not be buying gas, tools, food, shoes, medicine and all the
amenities needed to live. The businesses lost in the expansion area will not be generating income, which means there will be less money rebounding in the local economy. There will be an increase in unemployment due to the loss of the jobs in the agricultural industry.
The purchases of these properties could cause serious aberrations in the local real estate market.
Properties adjacent to The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge could see a devaluation in their worth, while properties a little further away from the Refuge could have the prices of their properties become artificially inflated. The land will never be able to be bought or sold again once purchased by The Service and this
eliminates even more money from flowing back and forth, through the financial system. All of this, in total, will cause a more restrictive real estate market to be created.
Then take into consideration the amount of Federal money that it will take to restore these properties back into a natural intertidal marsh. The first two units of the Bandon Marsh were only going to consume $4,000,000 of public money, but that project has increased to about $14,000,000. Up to $50,000,000 is what the estimated cost will be to restore the desired expansion area.
Nationally, these expenditures will all contribute to the Federal Debt, which is about $15 trillion and climbing. Feeling a little insignificant?
What can The Citizens of Coos County Do?
First we have to stay informed and keep others informed, because knowledge is power.
Then you have to contact your representatives in the government, and tell them that you will not stand for the intrusive nature of the US Fish & Wildlife Service or any other federal agency with the intentions of taking more property from public domain.
We have to organize an opposition, band together and fight against this invasion of our county. There are people organizing now and you can be a part of the effort by going to www.CoosCountyWatchdog.com .
Sign up for the newsletter and lets us know if you are willing to volunteer.
We need people to monitor the different organizations that capitulate and work with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. We need people to monitor the (USFWS) itself. We need people who can help maintain the social websites that are being set up to stop the Bandon Marsh Expansion, such as on the one on Facebook. We need people who are willing to travel to Salem and Washington to meet with representatives and lobby against
the expansion. We need people to write letters to the representatives on the Public Lands committees in both
houses of the US government and Letters to the Editors of every publication in the state. We need people to hand out flyers and possibly get petition signatures. We need people to PROTEST.
A Place to Start
Please show up a little early to the next BOC meeting with a “No Bandon Marsh Expansion” sign and an American flag, so we can demonstrate to the commissioners that we are very serious about this issue.
Also, there is another meeting on this issueto be held Saturday, March 3rd, at the Owens Building in Coquille.
The meeting will begin at 11:00 am.
And, if all of this is not enough, then maybe it is time to OCCUPY the Bandon Marsh and reclaim
that which is already ours.
“Rob Taylor was the original organizer of the TEA Parties in Coos County and is currently an independent activist working to promote the rights of the individual.”