Douglas County recently proposed a sweeping plan to allow sprawling residential development on rural lands that would have had far-reaching consequences for Oregon's land use system, farmers and ranchers, and critical wildlife habitat.
Several parties, including 1000 Friends of Oregon, Friends of Douglas County, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife challenged the County's proposal, and won!
LUBA found that Douglas County's proposal failed to ensure that farm and forest lands would be protected as Oregon's land use planning system intended.
Deschutes County has been trying to develop a similar plan to designate our agricultural land (resource lands) as "nonprime", paving the way for residential and industrial development on rural lands. Now, due to LUBA's remand of Douglas County's proposal, Deschutes County is putting plans on hold. Background below...
Once again, our visionary statewide land use planning program has helped us push back against development pressure to protect our most valuable natural resources for now and future generations.
Background: Agricultural land in Oregon has been long protected by Oregon's land use system. The Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zone was intended to limit development that might be in conflict with farming practices, harm wildlife, or permanently alter the character or productivity of the land. These protections were not dependent on the current use of land, but on preservation for future generations.
Over time, development pressure has eroded these protections, and now more than 50 non-farm uses are allowed on EFU. Despite our region's rapid rate of development, Deschutes and other counties have made many attempts to reclassify resource lands to further facilitate residential development in rural areas, including the Douglas County proposal that was just remanded by LUBA.
This type of development is harmful to farmers and ranchers, and puts a strain on community resources when infrastructure like roads, sewer, schools and medical services need to be extended beyond urban growth boundaries. Our wildlife are also at risk, as much of the habitat is protected only by the EFU designation. Fragmentation of the landscape permanently alters wildlife corridors forged by centuries of migration.
Resource lands are so important to us as Central Oregonians. Although we did not participate in this case, it is a major win for all of us who value resource lands and wildlife.