My View: Smart planning will protect land we love
It is so easy to take the good things in our lives for granted, especially if they have been in place all of one's life. Which may be why those of us who work on issues like land use have a deep and continuing appreciation of its impact in our wonderful state.
We realize how differently it all could have worked out, how much — as in other states — we might have had to endure endless suburban sprawl at the expense of the natural wonders that are found in Oregon.
Around 50 years ago, our state government, working with members of the Oregon Environmental Council and other dedicated community members, imagined and then brought to life one of the United States' most well-defined pieces of land-use planning legislation.
It is planning that, to this day, stands out as one of the most visionary ways to protect irreplaceable farmland and forestland, the places that provide food for our families, timber products to build with, and the natural areas where we love to hike, bike, ski and swim.
It took time to craft a bill that would bring everyone on board — environmentalists, farmers and a wide range of businesses alike. The results came in 1973 with the enactment of Senate Bill 100 in Salem.
The legislation established the framework and structure for coordinated statewide land-use planning. To embark on a path to truly coordinate land-use planning from the local level to the state level, the design absolutely had to have the buy-in of all affected parties.
Democrats and Republicans, farmers and timberland owners and urban dwellers alike said, "yes!" to the challenge. Thanks to the fact that the Oregon Environmental Council was at the table, Oregon could build on a collaborative spirit felt across the state at the time. That spirit worked in keeping with the idealistic dream that propelled it forward — to avoid sprawl at the expense of our most precious natural resource, the land upon which we all depend for life.
In the face of so many of the environmental, economic and social challenges that we face in contemporary times, land-use planning may not seem exciting or sexy. Without it, though, what we all have come to appreciate as the uniqueness of life in Oregon would no longer be possible.
Oregonians knew this a half-century ago, and as someone working on rural land-use planning in the most populous county, I still believe that it is not only possible to wisely manage growth and protect farm and forest land, but also absolutely essential to the well-being of Oregonians for generations to come.
Much of the visionary drive for Oregon's land-use planning movement came from early environmental organizations such as the Oregon Environmental Council.
As we celebrate 50 years of successes like that of Senate Bill 100, my hope is that the young people of today can appreciate the foundation built for them by the Oregon Environmental Council and that they, too, will work to preserve what is most precious about this magical place we live — the land we inhabit.