The subject of land use has been, and continues to be, one of the most contested political topics in Oregon. 16 years ago, it was Measure 37, which allowed landowners to be recompensed for regulations that the state put in place, and today, it’s solar panel companies fighting with farmers and the legislation to be able to utilize Exclusive Farm Use land to set up solar farms, or urban sprawl leaking into forests or pastures, causing issues for farmers across Oregon. With agriculture and forestry being two of Oregon’s biggest industries, it’s no surprise, but without human expansion across the landscapes of Oregon, how will we grow? The key to the current issue is compromise, but what level are we, as a state, comfortable with?
Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at UCLA writes about a failure to compromise between social and biological survival in his piece “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” where he writes about the Viking civilizations in Greenland that ended up dying out due to their inability to let go of social and cultural rules to be able to survive. It seems that Oregon is facing a similar issue of a smaller scale today. The Western values of expansion and growth at all costs are clashing with Oregon’s historical trend towards land conservation. While this issue isn’t one of biological survival of humans like that described by Diamond, it is one of the biological survival of land, which translates to the economic survival of Oregon. Oregon’s land is ideal for forest growth and the growing of multiple specialty crops. Hazelnuts are just one example, only growing in great volumes here in Oregon, with 95% of all American-produced hazelnuts being from Oregon, making hazelnuts a large contributor to Oregon’s GDP. While the survival of the human population in Oregon is not currently at stake, it doesn’t take too many steps after losing our arable land to get to a point where Oregon is no longer a viable place to live.