Stanford Social Innovation Review: Oregon Land Use Program Is "What Works" in Government

An award-winning magazine describes Oregon's innovative land use planning program as the country's foremost model for achieving a balance of high-quality communities and thriving rural resource lands.

For its fall 2012 issue, the Stanford Social Innovation Review explores how Oregon became a national leader for effective, intelligent use of resources and innovative community design. A year after the Harvard Kennedy School selected the program as one of six finalists for the Innovations in American Government Award, the magazine considers some of the unique attributes that have made land use planning work for Oregon communities.

From its creation nearly 40 years ago by a bipartisan coalition of farmers, foresters, workers, conservation organizations, and legislators, the program has continued to innovate through combining fact-based planning with committed public engagement. 

At its core is careful use of Oregon's greatest and most irreplaceable asset: its land. "Oregon is the only state program that gives land standing," 1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner tells writer Suzie Boss in the piece. "Land is valued as more than a commodity."

Chris Leinberger, a nationally known expert on real estate and development, tells Boss that the launch of Oregon's land use program was "a clap of thunder from the Northwest," providing an example of a different path for more livable communities that fosters innovation and holds back financially and environmentally unsustainable sprawl. (Watch a video of Leinberger speaking in Portland as part of our 2012 McCall Society Speaker Series.)

Among the sources Boss speaks with is a family forester in Southern Oregon, who tells here that "the system works to keep farms farms and forests forests," keeping land managed "for the highest and best use."

Although challenges to the program's success have emerged over the years, Miner tells Boss that 1000 Friends is committed to building awareness and appreciation of how the land use system improves Oregonians' everyday lives in myriad ways, from making it easier to walk to school or work, to expanding access to fresh local food. For more on this, please see our Land Use Is page at friends.org/landuseis.

Ultimately, Oregon's land use planning program works because Oregonians make it work. This kind of national recognition is a testament to that fact. 

Click here to read the full article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It is currently only available to subscribers, but free access will be provided in early November. Sign up for the SSIR weekly e-newsletter to be notified when it is available.