Natural Areas Program

2015 Natural Areas Plan cover

2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan Update

The 2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan lists the rare species, ecosystems, and geological features present in Oregon and where they are represented by protected lands.

In preparation for the 2015 Plan update, a geodatabase of Oregon's Natural Areas was produced. This spatial layer contains all registered and dedicated sites and those natural areas included in the Oregon Natural Areas Plan as conserving rare species, habitats, or geological features. If you find errors or omissions in this geodatabase please contact inrpdxweb[at]pdx.edu with updated information.

Natural Areas Plan History

The Oregon Legislature established the Oregon Natural Areas Program in 1979 as a way to protect high quality native ecosystems and rare plant and animal species. The program is managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and is guided by the Natural Heritage Advisory Council.  In 2010, the Council adopted the Oregon Natural Areas Plan, a report that defines the full range of Oregon's natural heritage and guides the selection of priority areas for the establishment of natural areas. INR's Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) helped develop the Oregon Natural Areas Plan and assists the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department by maintaining natural areas records, providing scientific advice and coodinating with regional and national natural areas programs. ORBIC has a long history working with the Natural Areas Program and has helped guide it since 1979, when ORBIC was called the Oregon Natural Heritage Program.

The goals of the Oregon Natural Areas Program are to:

  1. Create a discrete and limited system of natural areas representing the full range of Oregon's natural heritage resources. These areas are to be used for scientific research, education and nature interpretation.
  2. Establish a process and means for public and private sector voluntary cooperation in the development of a system of natural areas.
  3. Provide advice to managers of natural areas on the management and use of such areas and provide information concerning the conservation of natural heritage resources and special species to the state, federal and local agencies that manage lands within Oregon   

The Oregon Natural Areas program collaborates with regional and national natural areas programs, including an interagency Natural Areas Committee, that is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. This committee meets twice a year, and has representatives from the federal land management agencies, state agencies, The Nature Conservancy, and others interested in Natural Areas. The Natural Areas Association helps coordinate efforts throughout the U.S. and the world, and promotes information exchange regarding the management and establishment of natural areas.

Related Materials

  • 2015 Oregon Natural Areas Plan (2015) (PDF) - Adopted by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in January, 2016.
  • Oregon Natural Areas Plan (2010) (PDF) - The plan was adopted by the State Land Board on December 14, 2010. This book describes the Natural Areas Program in Oregon. This is Oregon’s first Natural Areas Plan, and serves as an update to the “Oregon Natural Heritage Plan” which was released every 5 years, from 1988 – 2003. 
  • Register of Natural Heritage Resources - The Oregon Register lists Oregon's most important sites with significant natural heritage resources. Sites on the list are primarily on state lands, but also includes voluntarily listed sites on private or municipal lands, and a few federally owned sites which were registered before they were acquired by the government.  Any natural area in the state can become part of the Registry through a voluntary process established by the Oregon Legislature. 
  • List of Dedicated Natural Heritage Conservation Areas - Sites on the Register of Natural Heritage Resources can also be designated as Dedicated Natural Heritage Conservation Areas.  These sites have additional protections to sites on the Registry of Natural Heritage Resources.
  • List of Research Natural Areas - These are natural areas on federal lands, that were designated by federal agencies for research purposes. 
  • Oregon Natural Areas Act (2012) - These laws set out the definitions of the Natural Areas Program, the Advisory Committee, agency duties, the process of dedicating natural areas, and other findings. All Oregon laws are viewable on the Oregon laws search site, and laws related to state lands can be found with Chapter 273, with the Natural Areas Program law starting at 273.563.

Dedicated Natural Heritage Conservation Areas

Dedicated natural areas in Oregon are called Natural Heritage Conservation Areas. For an area to be dedicated, it must first be registered, and must also have a management plan describing how the key biological resources will be managed. Natural Heritage Conservation Areas are similar to federal Research Natural Areas in that they are designed to serve educators, researchers, resource managers and the general public with access to Oregon's natural heritage resources far into the future. INR's Oregon Biodoversity Information Center assists state agencies in identifying candidate sites for dedication. 

Eight sites are currently dedicated: 

Cape Blanco                                                                 Cape Meares

                       

Cascade Head                                                               Netarts Spit

                     

Onion Peak                                                                 Saddle Mountain

                    

Steens Summit                                                            Winchuck Slope

                     

 

Additional information on these sites is available from ORBIC.

Register of Natural Heritage Resources

The Oregon Register lists Oregon's most important sites with significant natural heritage resources. Sites on the list are primarily on state lands, but also includes voluntarily listed sites on private or municipal lands, and a few federally owned sites that were registered before they were acquired by the government. The Council recommends candidates for registration to the State Land Board for approval. There are 100 natural areas currently registered. For the names and owners of the sites listed on the register, see below. Additional information on these sites, including a basic registry form, is available from ORBIC. 

Oregon State Register of Natural Heritage Resources

Status as of June 30, 2015

Sites currently on the Register:
(owner in parenthesis followed by the year the site was added to the register)

  • Ace Williams Mountain (BLM) - 2001
  • Ainsworth (OPRD) - 1993
  • Bald Hill (City of Corvallis) - 1991
  • Bandon Marsh (USFWS) - 2002
  • Beaver Creek (OPRD) – 2009
  • Benson Addition, Multnomah Falls (OPRD) - 1991
  • Billy Burr Lake (USFWS) - 1993
  • Blacklock Point (OPRD) - 1988
  • Blind Slough Swamp Preserve (TNC) - 1995
  • Blowout Ponds (OPRD) - 1993
  • Borax Lake Preserve (TNC) - 1994
  • Bridal Veil Falls (OPRD) - 1993
  • Bull Flat (DSL) - 1990
  • Camassia Preserve (TNC) - 2003
  • Cape Arago Marine Gardens (OPRD) - 1992
  • Cape Blanco (OPRD) – dedicated in 1991
  • Cape Ferrelo (OPRD) - 1999
  • Cape Lookout (OPRD) - 1988
  • Cape Meares (OPRD) – dedicated in 1988
  • Cape Sebastian (OPRD) - 1999
  • Carl Washburn Blowout Ponds (OPRD) - 1993
  • Cascade Head Preserve (TNC) - dedicated in 1985
  • Clear Lake Ridge Preserve (TNC) - 1989
  • Coburg Ridge Preserve (TNC) – 2008
  • Collier State Park (OPRD) - 1992
  • Columbia Oaks (Hood River Co, OPRD) - 1993
  • Conley Lake (ODFW) - 1999
  • Coopey Falls (OPRD) - 1993
  • Crissey Field (OPRD) - 1999
  • Crooked Creek (OPRD) - 1991
  • Crook Point (USFWS) -1998
  • Crump Lake Preserve (TNC) - 1993
  • Crump Lake South (DSL) - 1990
  • Davis Slough (DSL) - 1989
  • Denman Vernal Pools (ODFW) - 1994
  • Eight Dollar Mountain (OPRD, TNC) - 1988
  • Elowah Falls (OPRD) - 1993
  • Flagg Island (ODOT) - 1993
  • Gary & Chatham Islands (Multnomah Co) - 1992
  • Givan Park (Jackson Co.) - 1993
  • Hart Mountain additions (USFWS) – 1991, 1994
  • Humbug Mountain (OPRD) - 1999
  • Illinois River Forks (OPRD) - 1997
  • Indian Sands (OPRD) - 1991
  • Jackson-Frazier Wetlands (Benton County) - 1991
  • Juniper Hills Preserve (TNC) - 1998
  • Kingston Prairie Preserve (TNC) - 1997
  • Knappa Slough Island (DSL) - 1999
  • Ladd Marsh (ODFW) – 1988, 2004
  • Latourell Falls (OPRD) - 1993
  • Lindsay Prairie Preserve (TNC) - 1988
  • Little North Santiam River (FS) - 1991
  • Little Rock Island and Shore (PRD) - 1988
  • Logan Valley (Burns Paiute Tribe) - 1999
  • Luckiamute Landing (OPRD) - 1993
  • Memaloose (OPRD) - 1993
  • Middle Fork John Day River Preserve - Dunston (TNC) - 1990
  • Middle Fork John Day River Preserve - Oxbow (TNC) - 1999
  • Mill Creek Ridge (BLM) - 1991 & (CLT) 2014
  • Miller Island (ODFW) - 1992
  • Multnomah Falls (OPRD, FS) - 1991
  • Nehalem Bay (OPRD) - 1991
  • Nesika Beach Preserve (TNC) -1998
  • Nestucca Bay (DSL) - 1994
  • Netarts Spit (OPRD) – dedicated in 1989
  • Noble Oaks (Willamina) (TNC) – 2014, 2015
  • North Fork Owyhee River (BLM) - 2004
  • Ochoco State Wayside (OPRD) - 1990
  • Onion Peak Preserve (DSL, ODF, NCLC) – dedicated in 1988
  • Ophir Dunes (ODOT) - 1988
  • Otter Point (OPRD) – 1999
  • Piute Creek (DSL) - 1992
  • Pumpkin Ridge (Private - GROWISER) - 1994
  • Rattlesnake Butte (CTGR) - 1986
  • Rooster Rock (OPRD) – 1990
  • Rough and Ready Creek Preserve (TNC) - 1994
  • Rough and Ready State Wayside (OPRD) - 1989
  • Round Top Butte Preserve (TNC) - 1986
  • Rowena Plateau (OPRD) - 1993
  • Saddle Mountain (OPRD) – dedicated in 2005
  • Scappoose Bay (OPRD) -1999
  • Simpson Reef – Cape Arago (DSL) - 1992
  • Skull & Little Wallace Island (DSL) - 1991
  • Smith Island (DSL) - 1989
  • Snag Boat Bend (USFWS) - 1999
  • South Grouse Gap (FS) - 1998
  • South Slough (DSL) - 1991
  • Succor Creek (PRD) – 1988
  • Squally Point Dunes (OPRD) - 1993
  • Starvation Creek and Warren Creek (OPRD, FS) - 1990
  • Steens Mountain – Ankle Creek (BLM) - 2001
  • Steens Summit (DSL) - dedicated 1979
  • Succor Creek (OPRD) - 1988
  • Sycan Marsh Preserve (TNC) – 1988, 2013
  • Table Rocks (TNC, BLM) – 1986, 2008
  • Tillamook Bay Preserve (TNC) - 2011
  • Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena (TNC) - 1986
  • Twin Rocks Bluffs (OPRD) - 1999
  • Tygh Valley (OPRD) - 1991
  • Umpqua Lighthouse (OPRD) – 2002
  • Upper Klamath Lake (USFWS) - 2013
  • Wallace and Anunde Islands (USFWS) – 1993
  • Westport Slough (USFWS) - 1991
  • West Sand Island (COE) - 1988
  • Whalen Island (OPRD) - 2001
  • Whetstone Savanna Preserve (TNC) - 1995
  • Willamette Confluence Preserve (TNC) – 2010
  • Williamson River Delta Preserve (TNC) – 1997, 2007
  • Willow Creek Preserve (TNC) - 1998
  • Winchuck Slope (DSL) - dedicated 1979
  • Woodcock Creek (DSL) - 1990
  • Yamhill Oaks Preserve (TNC) – 2009, 2013
  • Zumwalt Prairie Preserve (TNC) – 2001, 2006

Ownership abbreviations:

  • CLT – Columbia Land Trust      
  • CTGR – Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
  • DSL – Department of State Lands  
  • ODF – Department of Forestry  
  • ODFW – Department of Fish and Wildlife    
  • ODOT – Department of Transportation   
  • OPRD – Parks and Recreation Department    
  • TNC – The Nature Conservancy     
  • TWC – The Wetlands Conservancy     

Research Natural Areas

Research Natural Areas (RNA) are federal lands managed for research and education purposes.  The majority of designated natural areas in Oregon are part of the federal Research Natural Areas program.

The RNA program was created to:

  1. Preserve examples of all significant natural ecosystems for comparison with those influenced by man
  2. Provide educational and research areas for ecological and environmental studies
  3. Preserve gene pools of typical and endangered plants and animals

In the Pacific Northwest, the DoD Army Corps of Engineers, USDA Forest Service, USDI National Park Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Department of Energy all participate in the program. The U.S. Forest Service has provided a regional RNA coordinator to help manage the Pacific Northwest Interagency Natural Areas Network and RNA committee. This committee meets biannually to promote the program and coordination on the establishment and management of these areas.

In addition to RNAs, the Bureau of Land Management has established many sites that have significant natural area values as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. These sites are recognized along with RNAs, State Natural Heritage Conservation Areas, and Marine Reserves as critical components of the natural area network. RNAs and ACECs are included in the 2010 map and listing of natural areas of Oregon (from 2010 Natural Areas Plan).

Asplenium trichomanes-ramosum habitat, photograph by Peter Zika.