This spring, Central Oregon LandWatch won a significant victory for threatened mule deer herds and ranchers in Crook County. When the County approved construction of a proposed nonfarm dwelling in the Post-Paulina Valley east of Prineville, LandWatch appealed the decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). LUBA agreed with LandWatch and reversed the County's decision.
Mule deer are prized by Oregon wildlife watchers and hunters alike, but in recent decades their population has plummeted in large part due to increased development which fragments their habitat. Since ranchers also need connected tracts of open space, in many respects wildlife and ranchers need the same kind of landscape. Crook County is to protect these vulnerable landscapes by limiting residential density in mule deer winter range.
In this recent decision, LUBA found that the County’s approval of a nonfarm dwelling was inconsistent with the County's own protections for critical deer winter range in the Post-Paulina region. LUBA also agreed with LandWatch that the approval was inconsistent with the County's protections for farmland and ranchland.
LandWatch's win for ranchers and wildlife sets an important precedent for protecting winter range while also protecting family ranches and the landscapes that both ranchers and wildlife need to survive.