1000 Friends Celebrates Victory for Marion County Farmland

In March 2012, a slight Marion County farmer named Lolita Carl spoke at 1000 Friends' Tom McCall Legacy Gala. Lolita, whose family has farmed in Marion County for generations, told our guests how 1000 Friends staff were helping her defend her farmland and way of life in Woodburn.

“We can care all we want about Oregon, but if we don’t contribute and work at it, it will be of little help,” Lolita told the audience of several hundred in Portland. “We feel constantly threatened by development. But if New York City can save Central Park, we can save our farm.”

Lolita passed away prematurely last summer, but on January 2--her birthday--the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling that honors her legacy and the many hours she and her family spent fighting for Oregon farmland.

As reported by the Statesman-Journal's Tracy Loew:

The Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed Woodburn’s attempt to expand its urban growth boundary into 409 acres of prime farmland, saying the city and the state Land Conservation and Development Commission did not provide adequate justification for the expansion.

The plan was challenged by 1000 Friends of Oregon, Friends of Marion County, the Marion County Farm Bureau and several area residents and farmers.

The City of Woodburn first proposed a 979-acre urban growth boundary expansion in 2005. When the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) approved that plan, 1000 Friends and local farmers successfully challenged it before the Court of Appeals. 

When LCDC and Woodburn submitted a revised plan, it still contained a 409-acre area of very high-quality farmland designated for employment uses--land the City couldn't prove it needed within the next 20 years, as is required by Oregon's land use laws. (Learn more about the specifics of the proposal in this 2011 piece from our newsletter.)

On January 2, 2014, the Court of Appeals again agreed with 1000 Friends and our co-petitioners, who included Friends of Marion County, the Marion County Farm Bureau, and several individual farmers and residents.

As Policy Director Mary Kyle McCurdy told reporter Tracy Loew, "1000 Friends stood with local farmers in this case because once our best farmland is gone, it’s never coming back. When a city proposes to open some of the world’s best farmland to development, they must be held to the highest standard."

McCurdy went on to note that agriculture is Marion County's largest industry, and the second-largest in the state. So it's unwise to give up prime farmland for development without clear justification, as Woodburn proposed to do.

"Woodburn was proposing to expand their urban growth boundary for speculative other users that don’t currently exist there," McCurdy told Loew. "Agriculture does exist. It’s a thriving and growing industry in the county and the state."

As the proposal returns to the City, 1000 Friends stands ready to work with local and state officials, as we have successfully done with other cities, to find more responsible ways to provide capacity for all industries--including Marion County’s most important industry, agriculture.  

For more on this case and 1000 Friends' response, please read our January 2 press statement. 

To learn more about why agriculture is so important to Oregon's economy, please read our 2013 report, Great & Growing.

Additional Reporting: