Ranching

How we are helping Jefferson County farming families

Agriculture is an important part of Central Oregon’s cultural heritage and supports a resilient local food system. Farm and ranch land has remained available for family farmers in Central Oregon because of protections put in place by our statewide land use planning system.  

Keeping Land Affordable for the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers

Our recent win at the Land Use Board of Appeals will help keep land affordable for future farmers, and help preserve Central Oregon's rural lifestyle for generations to come.
 
An application to develop land zoned for exclusive farm use in the Powell Butte area would have permanently taken that land out of production and driven up land prices for future farmers. We appealed the application and won, which means another tract of land is safe from fragmentation and nearby properties are protected from development pressure.

Powell Butte is one of the most productive cropland areas in Central Oregon. According to Crook County's Comprehensive Plan, trends toward rural non-farm residences pose serious problems and conflicts for farmers (p. 7).

“Oregon is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the nation, boasting the production of more than 225 different types of crops and livestock, and leading in the production of 13 crops.” ( Oregon Farm & Forest Report, p. 2 ).     Photo: Austin Montreil Leonard

“Oregon is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the nation, boasting the production of more than 225 different types of crops and livestock, and leading in the production of 13 crops.” (Oregon Farm & Forest Report, p. 2). 

Photo: Austin Montreil Leonard

Farming and ranching is a critical aspect of Central Oregonians’ identity and our resilient economy. Since the 1970’s, agricultural lands have been protected in Oregon by exclusive farm use (EFU) zoning that prevents nonfarm uses from taking over agricultural land. For years, this policy has kept Oregon’s agricultural economy strong in part by keeping the cost of land reasonable for new farmers and ranchers, or established farmers and ranchers wishing to expand their operations.
 
Over the next two decades, Oregon agriculture as we know it may face a debilitating crisis when much of the state’s agricultural land passes to new ownership as a large number of farmers and ranchers begin to retire. “How that land changes hands, who acquires it, and what they do with the land will impact Oregon for generations” (The Future of Oregon's Agricultural Land, p. 5).
 
Thankfully, our recent win at the Land Use Board of Appeals will help keep agricultural land in the hands of family farmers and ranchers who want to preserve their way of life and Central Oregon’s rural economy for the next generation.

Victory for Wildlife Habitat & Ranchers

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 and Ranching Families both depend on connected landscapes (photo: Blue Mountain Ranch)

Mule Deer and Ranching Families both depend on connected landscapes (photo: Blue Mountain Ranch)

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.