BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT HONORS YAQUINA HEAD VOLUNTEER FOR “MAKING A DIFFERENCE”
Newport — The Bureau of Land Management honored Newport resident Sandy Hayden for her outstanding achievement as a volunteer at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The recognition was part of the 2021 Making a Difference National Volunteer Awards ceremony. Volunteers like Hayden play a critical role in helping the BLM welcome millions of visitors annually to more than 245 million acres of public land across the American West.
“I’m continually humbled by the contributions made by all of our volunteers,” said Barry Bushue, BLM Oregon/Washington State Director. “Sandy’s hard work and enthusiasm have made a lasting impact on our public lands and on those who come to visit them.”
Hayden was one of six honorees at the annual ceremony, which recognized exceptional volunteer service on BLM-administered lands.
Since 2015, Hayden has been a dedicated volunteer at Yaquina Head, putting her green thumb and passion for plants to good use in service of American public lands. “Sandy’s contributions have been exemplary and represent the true spirit of American conservation,” said Matthew Betenson, manager of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
The Outstanding Natural Area is a National Conservation Lands site along the Oregon coast. Formed by ancient lava flows, Yaquina Head’s hard basalt cliffs and coves have been shaped by pounding ocean surf for 14 million years. Visitors can view abundant wildlife such as whales, harbor seals and seabirds from the many breath-taking vantage points around the 100-acre site.
Invasive plants gained a strong foothold at Yaquina Head after use as a lighthouse in the 19th century and a quarry in the 20th century, but the site is 80 miles away from the nearest BLM botanist. In order to control the spread of invasive plants at the site, the BLM needed the help of volunteers.
Heeding the call, Hayden met with BLM botanists and quickly mastered the list of non-native and invasive plants prioritized for removal. Using hand tools and hard work, she has removed truckloads of invasive Himalaya blackberry, tansy ragwort, English ivy, and other invasives. While the BLM does not keep an official count of the volume of invasive vegetation removed, weeds collected by Hayden over two weeks once weighed in at more than 300 pounds.
In addition to removing nuisance plants, Hayden has put her green thumb to work in support of the historic lighthouse keeper’s garden, which harbors period appropriate heirloom vegetables and herbs. When school groups visit the site early in the growing season, Hayden helps students transplant sprouts into the raised beds. She tends the garden throughout the season, ensuring that weeds do not impede the growth of the heirloom vegetables and herbs. The final harvest, 95 pounds of food collected with the assistance of National Public Lands Day volunteers, was donated to a local food bank.
Hayden continues to educate herself and to work with BLM specialists to stay up to date on priorities and ensure that she only removes non-native plants, making room for native plants to thrive. She consistently demonstrates initiative and independent work to ensure these conservation lands remain healthy for current and future generations.