Preserving Land in Oregon

Alyson Marchi-Young
Thu, 05/26/2016 - 5:00pm

A tale of two studies

The American West is vastly changing; disappearing to human activity – primarily urban sprawl. In a newly released study and project conducted by the Center for American Progress and the Conservation Science Partners, researchers explore 11 Western states and the varying degrees of how human development impacts natural lands. According to "The Disappearing West" we are losing 1 football field of natural land every 2.5 minutes. The study looks at urban development as well as resource development such as farming, ranching, and timber. They also weigh the severity of each as it impacts natural lands and finds “…with the exception of logging activities in the Northwest, agriculture and forestry caused only marginal new loss of natural areas in recent years. The sprawl of housing and commercial buildings, on the other hand, accounted for more than half of all open space that was lost between 2001 and 2011.” Northwest logging is the largest contributor to natural land lost in our state, but we recognize that working forests can be managed sustainably and contribute to needed renewable resource development. This is very different from the larger issue across the West – urban sprawl. 

This leads us to another study just out from the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Oregon Department of Forestry, “Forest, Farms, and People: Land Use Change on Non-Federal Land in Oregon, 1974 – 2014.” The study found that Oregon’s Land Use laws have worked incredibly well in protecting resource lands. 99% of all non-federal land in the state that was resource land in 1984 has remained in those uses. And per the "Disappearing West" study above, that means we are impacting our natural areas less than we would by allowing for more urban sprawl. “Forest, Farms, and People” also found that our transitions between resource land, to low-density, to urban land are consistent with land use goals, and help keep development impacts low.

The study concludes by asking how we can accommodate increased population and housing needs to continue to protect these spaces. Again, as noted in “The Disappearing West,” accommodating those urban needs has dramatic impacts on natural spaces, and we know they impact our farm and forest land. Good thing 1000 Friends is on the case! 



Photo Credits: Smith Rock State Park by Balbino Rocha, Creative Commons and Surrounded by Grain by Ian Sane, Creative Commons