Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program and other legislative successes

Jul 10, 2017
New agricultural program will help land trusts protect working ranches and farms. Recreational immunity bill passes.

For the past two years, staff of the Deschutes Land Trust, as a member of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, have served on Governor’s working groups to develop new legislation to promote and fund working lands conservation.  By working lands we mean ranches, farms and timberlands that, if undeveloped and managed well, can also provide important habitat for Oregon’s wildlife. 

As a product of those efforts, the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program was developed and HB-3249 introduced by Representatives Brian Clem (D-Salem), Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) and Knute Buehler (R-Bend), each of whom served as a Chief Sponsor. On Friday July 7, 2017, we are pleased to report that HB-3249  has passed!

The new Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program will help land trusts purchase land protection agreements (conservation easements) on working lands. It is Oregon’s first voluntary program to help farmers and ranchers conserve working lands and the fish and wildlife habitat they support.

The program will also help prevent the fragmentation of large ranches and farms which is critical to any effort to maintain large-scale wildlife migration corridors. There has been tremendous need for such a program and this a critical first step in providing a permanent stateside agricultural funding source. Learn more about the program.

Many thanks to the Chief Sponsors of the bill for all their hard work and to legislators supporting this important new program!

Recreational Immunity Bill

Another bill of great interest to Oregon’s land trust community, known as the Recreational Immunity Bill or SB-327, was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown on June 22nd.  This bill “fixed” a loophole or gap in liability protection for landowners created by a 2016 court decision and has been of great concern to all landowners allowing public access on their properties. The bill restores the liability standards that the Deschutes Land Trust has long had on our Preserves that are open to public access. While this sounds like a minor piece of legislation, had the Legislature failed to enact the bill, it’s quite likely that many of the trails we currently enjoy throughout Central Oregon might well have been closed to the public. Many thanks to those legislators who recognized SB-327 as a common sense bill and an awareness of the importance of public recreation to Oregonians.