As we know all too well in the Rogue Valley, Oregon has faced devastating losses to human life and property from wildfires that have been severely exacerbated by climate change. The Rum Creek Fire is the latest reminder of the devastating risks posed by wildfires in our region. The fire threatens over 7,000 structures, has claimed one life, and has been creating unhealthy air quality across the Rogue Valley. Rogue Advocates has been hard at work at the state and local level to bring our land use planning rules and development proposals into alignment with this reality and avoid future harm, seeking to prevent new development that will not only convert our valuable forests and farm lands but also increase the risks and costs of wildfires. Read more about what we’ve been up to below!
Provide input to DLCD on their recommendations to incorporate wildfire into land use planning by September 16!
As a first step to address wildfire risk and hazards, the 2021 legislature passed Senate Bill 762, a comprehensive wildfire preparedness and resiliency bill. Under the bill, the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) was tasked with developing recommendations for changes to Oregon’s land use planning rules to make our communities safer from wildfire and adjust Oregon’s land use planning system to the reality of climate change-fueled wildfires. This summer, Rogue Advocates’ Land Use Program Manager, Devin Kesner, participated in a stakeholder group to provide input on DLCD’s recommendations. Rogue Advocates is urging limitations on new development on steep slopes and areas designated as extreme and high hazard and/or within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), among other measures. Read the draft recommendations and provide your own comments to DLCD on its draft recommendations here until September 16.
Shady Cove aggregate mine proposal denied by Jackson County!
Facing sustained opposition from Rogue Advocates and community members, Jackson County made its final decision to deny an application for an aggregate mining operation on nearly 64 acres a few miles north of Shady Cove on Highway 227. The application was seeking approval for mining operations all within close proximity to surrounding residences, some as close as 100 feet from the site and Trail Creek, a Rogue River tributary. Rogue Advocates’ comments emphasized that the operation was situated in a very fragile site with many potential hazards, including proximity to nearby residences and scenic highway 227, steep slopes, sensitive deer and elk habitat, and the potential to impact waterways. The application originally included a proposal for an asphalt batch plant, which would have posed extraordinary danger of wildfire by placing highly combustible materials on high wildfire risk forest land. Read more about the denial here. The application was not appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), so the applicants would need to submit a new and revised application to meet Jackson County standards.
Legal challenge preventing urbanization of forest land with extreme fire risk continues: case update
You might recall that back in June Rogue Advocates and 1000 Friends of Oregon won an appeal to LUBA, preventing rezoning of nearly 90 acres of forest land to develop a rural residential subdivision in Josephine County four miles north of Grants Pass. LUBA’s decision emphasized that the County’s approval improperly relied on evidence underrepresenting the property’s value as forest land and failed to demonstrate how plans for the property would retain rural levels of development if rezoned, both being legal criteria necessary to support the proposal. LUBA sent the application back to the County to resolve the issues raised by their decision, and the applicant is seeking a remand hearing scheduled for September 26. Rogue Advocates will continue to challenge this proposal in an area extremely vulnerable to wildfire. You can read more about LUBA’s decision and look out for updates on the case on our blog.
Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities coming to cities near you!
In July, DLCD adopted new rules to strengthen Oregon’s transportation and land use planning rules, reduce climate pollution, and create more equitable communities. Rogue Advocates submitted comments in support of the rules and advocating for the strongest possible emissions reductions during the two-year development process. The Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities (CFEC) rules aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through changes to Oregon’s land use and transportation systems. These changes are urgently needed in light of the state being severely off track from meeting its emissions reduction goals with transportation making up 38% of Oregon’s total emissions. The rules are multifaceted, but one of the major focuses is on developing “climate-friendly areas” where people live, work, and play without needing to drive, and improving facilities for walking, biking, and public transit. In the coming years, the rules will need to be implemented by Oregon’s largest metropolitan areas, including Grants Pass, Medford, and Ashland through changes to local land use planning and transportation networks. These rules are a huge step towards reducing our auto-dependency and getting Oregon on track to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rogue Advocates will be tracking local implementation of these rules in the years to come. Read more about the rules here.
Your philanthropic support empowers us to continue important work like this, as well as to advocate for sustainable transportation and housing options for our urban communities now and into the future. Our Land Use Watchdog program would not be possible without your generous support. Thank you for joining us in cultivating a livable and sustainable Rogue Valley. Thank you for making a gift today!
An affiliate of 1000 Friends of Oregon, Rogue Advocates recognizes that endless growth threatens the preservation of farmland, forestland, open space, wildlife habitat and livability that we treasure in the Rogue Valley.
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