Oregon has been in the national news for a wide variety of reasons over the last months. We’ve seen Oregon become the first in the nation to pass a law that automatically registers voters, we listened carefully during the headline-grabbing occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and we swallowed hard during the late-in-the-year post election protests. Some of us grimaced and some cheered when Portland took a spot in the NY Times top places to visit in 2017.
The one unmissable trend that has been perhaps the best covered both locally and nationally is our growth. Lots of people are moving here. Depending on which moving company you ask, Oregon holds first, second or third place for the most moved-to state in the country. You hear other statistics too: More than 225,000 out of state drivers’ licenses have been surrendered in the past three years, the Bend metro area is over 165,000 and is in the top 10 of fastest growth rates in the country, and, in Portland, you cannot escape the discussion of the pace of rent increases. It all boils down to the idea that Oregon, for a lot of people, really is a great place to live. Collectively, we Oregonians are made up of people whose families have been here for generations (including at least ten Native American nations/tribes), people who moved here a generation ago, and people who have just arrived. Between our organic growth and the influx of new citizens, Oregon is targeted to hit over 4.5 million people in 10 years’ time.
So you ask yourself what gives? When did Oregon become so popular, and why?
The answers to those questions are personal to most but there are some commonalities: quality of life, our beautiful environment and landscapes, our forest and waters, friendly communities, favorable economic opportunities, broad swaths of prime agricultural land and vineyards and so on. Sure, it all sounds great, who wouldn’t want those things? But isn’t that the dilemma? As people move here, the very nature of our place changes. It is a challenge (and opportunity) to keep our cultural and societal values intact while accommodating and absorbing new people (new friends), new ideas, and new opportunities. We must continue to make a community founded on values that make us uniquely Oregonian. Let’s first start with principles.
Oregon is nothing without her land.
Most long time Oregon residents who were around in 1973 will remember the leadership of then-governor Tom McCall for his introduction of Senate Bill 100. For those of you who aren’t familiar, SB 100 otherwise known as the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Act of 1973 includes several pieces of landmark legislation creating a framework for land use planning across the state, requiring every city and county to develop a comprehensive plan for land use. Enacting a comprehensive framework was not simple, nor has it gone unchallenged or unchanged, but to say that this legislation is a best practice is not an over-characterization. The framework includes 19 goals that express the state’s policies on land use and related topics, such as citizen involvement, housing, and natural resources. This framework was intended to allow citizens to express their needs, desires and values to protect the land they live on, work on and love. This bill has set the standard for other states looking to manage growth and now at least eight* have utilized portions of the framework to develop their own growth management and land use statutes. Net net- it’s been tried and it works.
Why are you telling me all this?
As an Oregonian, this land use framework is yours. It offers tools to protect and evolve your place. It’s every Oregonian’s right to be able to ensure that the place you call home is managed in a way that helps to meet your needs and the needs of a diverse and growing population that differ vastly in some ways and are identical in others. It’s there to protect your home from corporate interests that could compromise your ability to make a living, or to drink clean water, or to have a thriving aquaculture, or enjoy unblemished beautiful vistas, or to support the agriculture that puts food on your table. You get the picture. Make no mistake, for this land use program to be effective, you need you to know your rights as a citizen and how and where to get help when you need it.
This blog will focus on the work that Crag does to uphold the land use values of Oregonians (and Washingtonians). Crag’s legal team supports diverse efforts such as protecting youth against climate change, working with land owners and conservation coalitions to prohibit the development of fossil fuel export projects, developing the ballot measure protecting local water supplies for residential and agricultural uses, and preserving resources for future generations. Starting this year, Crag is working with 1000 Friends of Oregon throughout a largely rural population to help communities understand their rights and work within the system to ensure their own futures.