CORVALLIS, Ore. - After 35 years of operation, Oregon's pioneering land use system is doing a fairly effective job of protecting farm and forest lands and controlling urban expansion, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University.

The report was prepared at the request of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, in association with researchers from OSU, Portland State University, the University of Oregon and the U.S. Forest Service. It synthesized the conclusions of about 50-100 studies done primarily in academic institutions since this program began in 1973, and will be submitted this month to the "Big Look Task Force," a bipartisan group that will make a report on these issues to the 2009 Oregon legislature.

"There have been assumptions and anecdotal evidence that this system was working pretty well, but there was a perception that we needed to document this more formally," said Lisa Gaines, associate director of the institute. "We also took a careful look at the data needs we have going forward, the places where we just don't have enough information to make assessments."

The overall conclusion of the report was that "Oregon's land use system is sound."

Among the findings:

  • Oregon's land use system has been effective in preserving the agricultural land base, although there are concerns about local government compliance and the permitting of farm and non-farm dwelling on resource lands.
  • Despite the expressed importance of citizen involvement, the reality has fallen short of goal objectives.
  • The program has had a small but measurable effect in reducing the loss of forest land to developed uses.
  • Urban growth boundaries have had some unexpected but positive impacts, including downtown revitalization and a decrease in residential racial segregation - but also the negative impact of increased vulnerability to natural disasters.
  • The Bend, Oregon, area faces continuing concerns in the goal of achieving higher densities and compact urban form.
  • Urban growth boundaries have been shown to affect land markets, but in the academic literature have not been clearly associated with housing price increases.
  • Aggressive urban containment has led to more use of non-motorized transportation, such as walking and biking to work, as well as higher levels of personal income and retail activity.
  • Intensive development of estuaries has been limited to places it was already concentrated.
  • More data is needed in several areas, including farmland preservation, estuary monitoring, and forest land development.

For more information on these issues, the Land Use Explorer provides public access to reliable and relevant land use information for Oregon. This web-based digital library is housed at OSU as one of the many topic portals of the Oregon Explorer. It can be found at:

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Lisa Gaines,