Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has issued an Executive Order directing state agencies to cooperate with local efforts to redefine farm and forest lands in three southern Oregon counties. The order implements an earmark passed by the Oregon Legislature earlier this year that provides funding for technical studies, mapping and a state rulemaking process. If successful, this process could result in more residential, commercial and industrial development on rural lands in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties.
The Governor’s order requires state agencies to work collaboratively with the counties to forecast future regional farming and forestry activities and identify lands necessary to support these activities. The order also directs the state agencies and the counties to develop mechanisms to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of any lands rezoned to non-farm and forest uses.
The order contemplates that the counties will spend at least a year on mapping and technical work before bringing a rulemaking petition to the state. This fact-finding will be critically important to determine whether new land use rules are actually necessary to support economic development in southern Oregon.
For more information about the effort to redefine farm and forest lands in southern Oregon, see my earlier article.