In a letter submitted on July 14, 2023, The Pew Charitable Trusts asked the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development and local jurisdictions to ensure that land use plans for the state's estuaries, where rivers meet the sea, account for the effects of climate change facing coastal communities.
The state’s 40-year-old estuary management plans (EMPs) guide which land uses are allowed (or disallowed) to help preserve the integrity and function of the coast’s 17 major estuaries. The EMPs were created under relatively stable climate conditions—and before the advent of many of the tools and management approaches decision-makers now have at their disposal to address threats such as flooding, frequent and severe storms, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, wildfire, drought, and extreme heat.
Pew recommended that the state and Lincoln County consider five pillars to make the EMPs more climate-ready:
- Plan for a variety of possible scenarios, aided by predictive modeling and climate data.
- Identify specific goals and strategies to adapt to effects of climate change such as sea-level rise and more severe storms.
- Establish systematic monitoring of indicators such as annual rainfall and temperature in order to evaluate success of selected goals and strategies.
- Employ adaptive management approaches to ensure effectiveness and build in management flexibility.
- Engage stakeholders and Tribal Nations to increase the potential for innovative land use planning and climate resilience solutions.
The letter also recommends that decision-makers look beyond large-scale interventions, given that researchers are learning that a series of smaller steps and management changes are more effective in meeting our climate challenge. Whatever steps are taken, land use planners and managers need to understand the science of climate change, access data that is useful at the project or parcel level, and incorporate new tools and approaches for using that data into their daily operations and planning processes.