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Non-Resource Land

Counties may designate rural land that is not farm or forest land as "non-resource land." This is land that, for a variety of reasons, does not satisfy the definition of farm or forest land contained in statewide planning goals and rules. It therefore is not subject to the planning and zoning requirements in Statewide Planning Goal 3 - Agricultural Lands or Statewide Planning Goal 4 - Forest Lands.

Goals besides those for agricultural and forest lands continue to apply, though. The land may have other resource values – for wildlife habitat, for example. A statute identifies these lands as "non-resource lands," but since they could have other resource values, “rural resource land” has been adopted in some circles as a more apt name.

Non-resource land has low productivity for raising crops, livestock, and forest trees. This is because of physical properties of the soil and climate. Land made unsuitable for farming or forestry by surrounding development can be designated as an "exception area" by the county instead.

When a county designates non-resource land, it must be consistent with state law.

All of these goals influence whether land receives a non-resource designation and what uses get allowed by zoning.

Statewide Planning Goal 3 defines what needs to be included in an inventory of agricultural lands in a county comprehensive plan. Agricultural lands have soils capable of producing farm crops or supporting livestock. Lands with less productive soils may also be considered agricultural land if they are necessary for farm practices or are near more productive soils.

Statewide Planning Goal 4 applies to forested land that is suitable for commercial forest uses including adjacent or nearby lands that are necessary to permit forest operations or practices. It also applies to other forested lands that maintain soil, air, water and fish and wildlife resources.

Land that does not satisfy the definition of either agricultural or forest land is eligible to be designated non-resource land on a county comprehensive plan.

Counties designate most rural land for farm or forest use in accordance with Statewide Planning Goal 3 or Goal 4. Exclusive farm use and forest zoning helps preserve land for farm and forest industries, key employers and producers in our state. Some rural land is not farm or forest land, however. Counties have designated some of this as "non-resource land" on comprehensive plans and given it zones that permit uses not allowed in exclusive farm use or forest zones.

As introduced above, the zoning that carries out a non-resource land designation must consider a range of factors besides unsuitability for farming and forestry. Natural resource values such as water quality and wildlife habitat are also supported by rural lands. The uses a county chooses to permit, and level of intensity of those uses, must be limited to preserve these values.

Several counties in the state have adopted non-resource land zoning. These zones generally permit housing, so they would be considered rural residential zones. Counties permit creation of new parcels in non-resource land zones that are smaller than typically is allowed in exclusive farm use or forest zones.​

In 2005, the Legislative Assembly passed Senate Bill 82, creating the Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning (the "Big Look Task Force") to perform a broad review of the land use planning program and make policy recommendations to the Legislative Assembly in 2009. Areas of concern included:

  • The effectiveness of Oregon's land use planning program in meeting the current and future needs of Oregonians in all parts of the state
  • The respective roles and responsibilities of state and local governments in land use planning
  • Land use issues specific to areas inside and outside urban growth boundaries.

 Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning Final Report, Chapter 3, "Protecting Farm, Forest, and Natural Areas," discusses issues related to appropriate zoning of non-productive farm and forest land, and the re-designation of farm and forest lands for other rural uses. The Big Look Task Force brought attention to the need to better define and set quantifiable limits for carrying capacity. Lawmakers recommended establishment of regional criteria authorizing two or more counties to petition for reevaluation of farm and forest land designations within those counties.

In 2009, the Oregon Legislature carried forward some of the work resulting from the final Big Look Task Force report in House Bill 2229. HB 2229 provided counties with a process for corrective remapping of rural land zoning to ensure sustainable development of rezoned lands and to prompt updates of natural resource protections. It created the structure for a regional problem-solving process that allowed counties to remap rural lands based on the results of regional problem solving.

In May of 2012, Governor Kitzhaber signed Executive Order 12-07, known as the Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Project (SORPP), establishing a Pilot Program for Regional Farm and Forest Land Conservation. Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties began a regional process to develop a plan that allowed for regional variation in what lands must be planned and zoned for farm and forest use. The executive order focused specifically on the parameters and measures that should be used in determining what was, and was not, "non-resource land."

Ultimately, the counties participating in SORPP were unable to reach consensus on the difficult topics included in the scope of the executive order, and were not able to establish a regional planning framework to address them. Final reports were posted by the counties and submitted to the Land Conservation and Development Commission in the summer of 2016.​


Gordon Howard
Community Services Division Manager
Phone: 503-856-6935