A bird’s-eye view: Land-use planning and assessments in Oregon and Washington

TitleA bird’s-eye view: Land-use planning and assessments in Oregon and Washington
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsOliver, M
Series EditorGray, A
Series TitleScience Findings
Document Number172
Date Published4/2015
Keywordsdevelopment, extension publications and factsheets, land use

Developing forest lands and agricultural lands for other uses has wide-ranging implications. Land development can affect production from forest and agricultural lands, wildlife habitat quality, the spread of invasive species, water quality, wildfire control, and infrastructure costs. In its attempts to mitigate these effects, Oregon implemented statewide land-use planning laws in the early 1970s. Washington established less prescriptive laws in the 1990s. Policymakers, land managers, and various interest groups want to know the effect these laws have had on land use.

Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Research Station found that Oregon’s laws have been more effective in controlling wholesale land conversion, but in neither state have land-use laws affected the increases in dispersed housing.

The scientists also identified a nationwide need to better specify land-use assessment methods and clarify the definitions used in assessments. They used a mix of assessment techniques, but emphasized the value of aerial photography as an important tool to increase the accuracy of land-use assessments.

The Oregon Board of Forestry used data from the study to assess the effectiveness of its conservation policies and establish benchmarks for maximum allowable loss of forest land. In Washington, the Department of Natural Resources has shown interest in using the data to analyze housing density near intensive agriculture and associated risks of pesticide exposure, fire, and floods.