The United States has lost more than 11 million acres of farmland to development over the last 20 years. Since 2006, Rogue Advocates has worked tirelessly to ensure that planning agencies follow land use laws that protect the public interest. Unfortunately, it turns out that time and again they have not followed our land use laws. Here are some examples of how we have responded:
- Reducing Rural Sprawl—In July of 2012, we forced Josephine County to apply new state laws used to define forestland. The county was reluctant to apply these new laws preferring to use its antiquated system of measuring forest production, which makes it easier to convert forestland into rural sprawl. We educated neighbors about complex laws and procedures so they could effectively participate in the process.
- Maintaining Quality Farmland—In 2012, we closed the loophole in Jackson County, which allowed mining on farmland under the guise of a farm-use activity. The illegal siting of aggregate mines on farmland in both Josephine and Jackson counties has long been a problem that needlessly destroys good farmland.
- Preservation of Farmland—In 2011, we partnered with 1000 Friends of Oregon and Friends of Jackson County to lead a campaign, which involved the public in the Greater Bear Creek Regional Problem Solving Process (RPS). RPS proposed to urbanize thousands of acres of farmland in the valley. We organized citizens and farmers to testify at the hearings. Two results of this work include reduced farmland loss and increased protections for farming in the region.
- Empowering Civic Engagement—In 2011-12, we conducted a series of community-based education seminars called Envision the Rogue Valley to engage the public in envisioning the community they wanted as an alternative to sprawl-based development. These forums, attended by scores of your friends and neighbors, culminated in a report and video available here.
- Advising on Resource Land Use—The Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program attempted to develop a new definition of farm and forest lands in Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas Counties. This project was initiated by Gov. Kitzhaber’s Executive Order 12-07 and is the result of pressure from developers to change land use laws in order to make it easier to gobble resource lands. Rogue Advocates was closely involved in this process as an advocate for retaining farm and forestland into the future.
- Continuing Civic Engagement—Now that the Bear Creek Valley has a regional growth plan, cities will begin to move forward with their Urban Growth Boundary expansions. As part of our ongoing Envision project, Rogue Advocates will engage with decision makers to ensure that our recommendations and strategies become a reality.
Envision the Rogue Valley
Thanks to a generous grant from Meyer Memorial Trust, Rogue Advocates launched “Envision the Rogue Valley” to help make this vision a reality here in the Rogue Valley. Throughout 2011-2012, we worked with community members, city and county planners, transportation agencies, and other local decision-makers to create and then implement this vision in the Rogue Valley through the use of “Smart Growth” tools. (Read more about “Smart Growth” here).
*Envision Oregon was a process led by 1000 Friends of Oregon and other collaborating organizations. After two years of town-hall style meetings across Oregon, 1000 Friends published “A Blueprint for Oregon’s Future,” which outlines basic state-wide strategies for smarter land use planning in Oregon, including: 1) preserve farmland, 2) reducing our dependence on the car and 3) improving the livability of our communities.
Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program
In May of 2012, Governor Kitzhaber signed Executive Order EO 12-07 to establish the “Southern Oregon Regional Pilot Program.” Depending on how it plays out, this plan could potentially become a land use program “game changer” diminishing farm and forestland and increasing rural sprawl in the Rogue Valley as well as becoming a model for other regions or counties to emulate.
The program includes three counties—Jackson, Josephine & Douglas—and authorizes them to engage in a process in which they develop a plan that allows “appropriate additional regional variation in what lands must be planned and managed as farm and forest lands” i.e. these counties get to redefine what farmland and forestland are.