Tonight, the Deschutes County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on whether to weaken critical wildlife habitat protections in the Metolius Deer Winter Range. This is an opportunity for you to make your voice heard!
Deschutes County Planning Commission Regular Meeting
Thursday, September 28 at 5:30pm
Deschutes Services Center 1300 NW Wall St, Barnes & Sawyer Rooms
Background: For years, Sisters-area landowners have illegally held wedding and other events on farmland and sensitive deer winter range northwest of Sisters. LandWatch has been opposing their requests for permits—and winning. After failing to disguise themselves as a private park to operate their commercial business on farmland, the same property owners then applied to be recognized as a church so that they may hold events. After the county approved their application to operate as a church, LandWatch appealed and LUBA again reversed the county’s decision, as churches are one among many different uses, including golf courses and public schools, not permitted in the Metolius Deer Winter Range.
These landowners are now threatening the county with a religious discrimination lawsuit, and the county is bending to pressure at the expense of wildlife. The County is considering amending the wildlife code to allow churches, so that a for-profit commercial event venue can legally operate in sensitive wildlife habitat.
If amended, the code will allow this “church” to operate a for-profit wedding venue, bringing approximately 250 wedding guests to each event. This kind of activity is prohibited in the Deer Winter Range for a reason—because it is detrimental to our wildlife.
Talking points, where appropriate:
“I oppose the County’s proposal to allow churches in the deer winter range because…”
- Our deer population is dwindling. It is more important than ever to protect habitat from the disruption and degradation associated with additional development.
- Deer are as much a part of Central Oregon as the Three Sisters and the Deschutes River. Critical habitat should not be lost to further development.
- I am a hunter. When degradation of critical deer habitat causes displacement and populations decline, my right to recreate is infringed upon.
- It is unacceptable for the county to amend its wildlife code to accommodate the for-profit ventures of individuals. County codes and wildlife protections are a service to the public. This proposed code amendment does a disservice to the public and our natural resources for the benefit of a for-profit event venue.
- Mule deer are part of the Central Oregon way of life. The county should stand up to defend its protection of critical habitat.