About Land Trusts
Gray's River - Columbia River Trust
Introduction
Why Land Trusts?
Oregon Land Trusts
Conservation Views
Acquisition Techniques
Oregon Land Trusts
Early Land Use
For countless generations, the Native people of Oregon were good stewards of the land, using the natural resources on a sustainable basis. Natives did change the landscape in some ways, using fire to clear fields and cultivating tree groves to attract game. But they used resources without putting excessive pressure on the ecosystem.
With the arrival of Europeans, things began to change. Trappers started wiping out fur-bearing mammals, altering the natural balance of predator and prey. Settlers plowed over the native vegetation and began planting crops. Ranchers ran huge herds of sheep and cattle over fragile desert range.
The arrival of industry put more pressure on the land. Millions of salmon were caught and canned. Mining and logging companies used resources without considering the long-term environmental impact. Water was diverted for irrigation, power and manufacturing. And the population kept growing.
It took just over 100 years to ravage vast tracts of the Oregon landscape.
Land Use by Mandate
In 1973, Governor Tom McCall made a famous speech to the Oregon Legislature, in which he described "sagebrush subdivisions, coastal 'condomania,' and the ravenous rampage of suburbia in the Willamette Valley." It was a speech that set off a decade of new environmental protections, including a statewide land-use policy, restrictions on development, and standards for planning and zoning in all cities and counties.
Unfortunately, the mandated solutions and land-use laws only provided some protection. There were several lengthy court cases sparked by the government regulations. And as Oregon's population grew, the pressure to develop continued to increase.
Land Trusts Arrive
During the 1970s, there was a great national debate about environmental protection. As the public became more aware of the problems, many ordinary citizens wanted to help find solutions.
In 1978, people came together in Jackson and Josephine counties to create Oregon's first land trust, the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy (SOLC). By 2002, there were over 20 active land trusts operating in Oregon. The increasing support for Oregon's land trust movement has been prompted, in large part, by continuing loss of the state's remaining green spaces.
According to the most recent National Resources Inventory, in just 15 years (1982 to 1997) Oregon experienced huge changes in land use:
  • The amount of urbanized land in Oregon nearly doubled (up 44%).
  • 249,800 acres were converted from rural lands to urban lands.
  • 85,000 acres of natural resource lands were converted to urban use.
  • The annual rate of conversion from rural to urban status jumped by 21%.
Land trusts can offer innovative non-regulatory solutions to help settle land-use conflicts. Trusts realize that self-interest and market forces are often the driving forces behind a landowner's decisions. The approach of land trusts is not designed to apply pressure, but to gently guide landowners into considering conservation for their own benefit, as well as for the public good.
Unfortunately, even the land trusts are unable to prevent the loss of many important open spaces. And although Oregon has a national reputation as a leader in land conservation, Oregonians don't always agree about the benefits of conservation, how much land should be conserved or even the best methods of conservation.
NEXT: Conservation Views >>