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Forests, Farms and People report chronicles land-use change in Oregon
Gary Lettman, 503-362-7171, or
Rod Nichols, 503-945-7425
“Change is all around” is more than a throwaway line to researchers who recently published the updated “Forests, Farms & People” report: It is the focus of intense study to measure evolving land use across Oregon.
Compiled by the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service from detailed analysis of thousands of aerial photographs, the 74-page report examines changes in activity on non-federal lands between 1974 and 2009.
First, the good news: Ninety-eight percent of all non-federal land that was in forest, agri¬cultural and range land uses in Oregon in 1974 remained in those uses in 2009. Unlike many other states, Oregon has held onto almost all of its resource land during recent decades of rapid economic growth and population expansion.
Recession slows development
However, the rate at which structures were being built on land in these three categories remained at a relatively high level until recently. With the start of the recession in 2007, the rate declined to its lowest level in the 35-year study period.
Regional differences
Private land in western Oregon was developed at a faster rate than on the eastside, with notable hotspots in the Portland area and Josephine County. The Bend area stands as the lone exception east of the Cascades, where a veritable land rush transformed the community into a construction zone from the 1980s on, finally stalling with the housing crash of the past several years.
Land-use laws effective
Highlighted in the report are trends in land use before and after the implementation of comprehensive land-use plans in the mid-1980s. Conversion of private land in forest, agricultural, and range uses to more developed uses slowed dramatically after the 1974-1984 period as the county plans, mandated by a 1973 state law, were implemented widely.
The effect has proved long-lasting. Nearly all private land designated as non-developable zones by the counties remained in forest, agri¬culture and range in the years following implementation of the plans in the mid-1980s. Conversion of land in resource uses to low-density residential or urban uses has occurred mostly on other private land zoned for development in the plans.
The full text of the “Forests, Farms & People” report, including a list of 11 key findings, will be posted soon to the Oregon Department of Forestry website - www.oregon.gov/odf.