Coast Range

Coast Range Ecoregion
Late Successional Mixed Conifer Forest within Oswald West State Park. Photo Credit: David Patte, USFWS


Oregon’s Coast Range is known for its dramatic scenery. It is also extremely diverse, with habitats ranging from open sandy dunes to lush forests and from tidepools to headwater streams. The Coast Range ecoregion includes the entire reach of the Oregon coastline and extends east through coastal forests to the border of the Willamette Valley and Klamath Mountains ecoregions.

In general, the topography is characterized by steep mountain slopes and sharp ridges. Elevation varies from the ocean shoreline to Marys Peak, which is about 4,100 feet high; however, main ridge summits are approximately 1,400-2,500 feet. The Coast Range ecoregion is bordered by the Nearshore ecoregion on the ocean shores and intersects it in Oregon’s estuaries.

The Coast Range’s climate is influenced by cool, moist air from the ocean, and is the wettest and mildest in the state. The ecoregion’s mild, moist climate creates conditions for highly productive temperate rainforests, which are important ecologically and for local economies. Most of the ecoregion is dominated by coniferous forests. Large forest fires are very infrequent but are severe when they occur. For example, the Tillamook Burn, which is actually a series of wildfires that occurred from 1939-1951, burned approximately 350,000 acres. The Coast Range includes the highest density of streams found in the state, and deciduous riparian vegetation is distinct from surrounding coniferous forests. Along the coastal strip, habitats are influenced by the marine environment and include beaches, estuaries, and headlands.

Some towns in Oregon’s Coast Range ecoregion include: Tillamook, Yachats, Astoria, Bandon, Cannon Beach, Elkton, Florence, Gold Beach, Lincoln City, Newport, and Waldport. The largest urban area on the coast is in Coos Bay/North Bend. Because of the bay and the Coos River, this area is a hub for fishing, shellfish, forest products, and transportation. Forestry remains the primary industry in the interior portion of the ecoregion. The Oregon coast offers excellent recreational opportunities, and tourism is important to local communities. Fishing, both commercial and recreational, and fish processing are significant components of the economy. People are increasingly moving to the coast to retire, so retirement services are growing in importance to coastal communities.


Important Industries

Timber, agriculture, commercial fishing, fish processing, tourism and recreation, and retirement services

Major Crops

Livestock forage, beef and dairy cattle

Important Nature-based Recreational Areas

Coos Bay; Tillamook Bay; Oregon sand dunes; Siuslaw and Siskiyou National Forests; Clatsop, Elliot, and Tillamook State Forests; Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area; numerous state parks and waysides


From 0 to 4,100 feet

Important Rivers

Alsea, Chetco, Coos, Coquille, Illinois, Lewis and Clark, Necanicum, Nehalem, Nestucca, Rogue, Siletz, Siuslaw, Trask, Umpqua, Wilson, Yaquina, Youngs

Conservation Issues and Priorities

Demand for waterfront property is increasing, along with numbers of people recreating, relocating, and retiring along the Oregon coast. Careful resource planning helps to balance these increasing demands with maintaining coastal fish, wildlife, and habitats. Coordinated, broad-scale planning is especially important given the diversity of the Coast Range ecoregion. For example, the Northwest Forest Plan covers much of the region’s forests. However, the adaptive management component of the Northwest Forest Plan has not been fully implemented. Although many plans currently exist, there is a continuing need to consider the unique requirements of transitional zones such as estuaries, and to integrate marine and inland conservation planning.

Much of the ecoregion is publicly owned and managed to balance recreation, tourism, and conservation. However, ownership in the northern part of the ecoregion is particularly fragmented. Restoration of watershed processes and functions, and restoration of habitat complexity (e.g., woody debris) to stream and riparian areas, are major concerns throughout the entire Coast Range ecoregion. Restoring flows to headwater streams maintains ecological connections important for many species.

Key Conservation Issues of particular concern in the Coast Range ecoregion include Land Use Changes and Invasive Species. In addition to the statewide issues, oil spills, loss of estuarine habitat, and recreational use are of particular concern in this ecoregion.


The Siuslaw River Estuary in Oregon's Coast Range ecoregion.
Photo Credit: Oregon Coastal Management Program. The Siuslaw River Estuary in Oregon’s Coast Range ecoregion.

Limiting Factors and Recommended Approaches

Limiting Factor:

Land Use Conversion and Urbanization

Some areas of the Coast Range are developing rapidly, especially along the coastline. Steep slopes limit the amount of land available for development, and concentrate it in sensitive areas, such as near rivers and estuaries. Residential development contributes to habitat loss and can threaten traditional land uses, such as agriculture and forestry.

Recommended Approach

Work with community leaders and agency partners to encourage planned, efficient growth. Support existing land use regulations to preserve farmland and forestland, open spaces, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, and natural habitats. Provide outreach about the benefits of wetland and tideland restoration.

Limiting Factor:

Oil Spills

Oil spills along the coast can have devastating effects on coastal habitat, fish, and wildlife. Tidal flux can spread oil or other hazardous materials around sensitive habitats very quickly. Therefore, rapid response in the event of a spill is essential. Additionally, spills of hazardous materials or oil from vehicles traveling on roads along the coast could potentially impact nearby rivers and aquatic species.

Recommended Approach

Ensure rapid response and preparedness for spills of hazardous substances. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Marine Oil Spill Prevention Program and the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force work with multiple parties and interested partners to address these concerns and quickly identify appropriate actions.

Limiting Factor:

Alterations to Estuarine and Wetland Habitats

Coastal rivers, wetlands, and estuaries were altered long ago when side channels were diked, marshes drained, and channels deepened. These changes impacted fish and wildlife dependent on estuarine habitats.

Recommended Approach

Where possible, remove dikes and tide gates to restore estuarine habitats. Where tide gates need to be retained, replace older gates with new innovations, such as side-hinged and aluminum gates that improve fish passage and hydrologic functions.

ATV riding in the dunes of the Siuslaw National Forest.
Photo Credit: USFS. ATV riding in the dunes of the Siuslaw National Forest.

Limiting Factor:

Increasing Recreational Use

Recreation contributes positively to the Coast Range’s economy and local communities and is managed carefully in many areas. However, increasing numbers of recreationists can impact sensitive areas, such as shorebird nesting areas and tidepool habitats. There are concerns with off-leash dogs and uncontrolled OHV use in some areas. OHV use and target shooting recreation are increasing on public forestlands, especially just outside of major metropolitan areas. As more land is closed to the public during fire seasons, remaining lands (particularly public lands) are experiencing greater use.

Recommended Approach

Work with state and federal forest management agencies to plan recreational use and to increase education and outreach for recreationists and associated businesses. Where needed, direct activities to particular seasons or away from sensitive areas. Monitor to ensure that OHV rules for use and public lands motor vehicle use maps are enforced by the managing agencies. Improve public awareness of sensitive areas through signage and kiosks.

Limiting Factor:

Invasive Species

Non-native plant and animal invasions disrupt native communities, diminish populations of at-risk native species, and threaten the economic productivity of resource lands and waters.

Recommended Approach

Emphasize prevention, risk assessment, early detection, and quick control to prevent new invasive species from becoming fully established. Prioritize management and control efforts to focus on key invasive species in high priority areas, particularly where Strategy Habitats and Strategy Species occur. Where needed, use multiple site-appropriate tools (e.g., mechanical, chemical, and biological) to control the most damaging invasive species. Work with partners to implement measures to prevent unintentional introduction of non-native species (e.g., implement existing ballast water treatment regulations). Provide information to the public about the ecological and economic damage that invasive species cause.

Strategy Species

Conservation Opportunity Areas