The Many States of Oregon: Part I

A Three-Part Series: Part I

In September, Oregon Business Magazine hosted an 18-day, 2000-mile road tour around Oregon designed to promote business innovation and share best practices. Included in the tour were elected officials, civic leaders, directors of government agencies, small business owners, corporate executives and, just to make it interesting, the Cascade Policy Institute management team.

Tour stops included Astoria, Salem, Corvallis, Springfield, Eugene, Reedsport, Medford, Lakeview, Prineville, Bend, Hines, Burns, Baker City, Joseph, Pendleton, The Dalles, Hood River, Troutdale, Gresham and Portland. Tina Pisenti, Cascade’s Vice President, went on the entire trip — the only guest to do so. I joined the tour in Medford and traveled through central and eastern Oregon.

At various stops we toured ranches, farms, factories and classrooms. We met with researchers, entrepreneurs and politicians and had opportunities to question hundreds of hard-working Oregonians about important local issues, frequently over fabulous dinners served up with great Oregon wines and beers.

The tour was a vivid reminder that Oregon is a very diverse state. Policies that might seem attractive in one part of the state are frequently inappropriate in other areas. And therein lie the policy lessons of the tour. On important issues ranging from land-use regulation, transportation, education and public lands management, local wealth creation is being stifled by top-down regulatory regimes that need to be changed or repealed.

Out of hundreds of individual conversations that we had, a certain number of themes emerged:

Federal and state land-use regulations are a huge barrier to economic opportunity.

More than 55% of Oregon is owned by the federal government. Of the remaining lands, more than 90% are zoned for rural farm and forest use, to the exclusion of most other uses. This means that most of the state cannot be leveraged for its highest and best use. To the contrary, Oregon resembles a gigantic museum, where we can look but not touch anything.

One conversation that took place near Pendleton is revealing on this point. After spending the morning in Pendleton hearing how the town wants to attract light industry and living wage jobs, we then traveled east to look at a new business park being built by the Umatilla tribe. After a very impressive walk-through, we were driving back on the bus when a woman from the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce remarked that such a business park could have been built in Pendleton except that the city has a shortage of land within the urban growth boundary. As she said this, we looked out the window, and noticed that there was nothing but vacant land as far as the eye could see — land that was obviously trapped in an Exclusive Farm Use zone under state planning law, but which would be much more valuable if converted to another use. Since that conversion is not possible under current land-use regulation, it sits under-utilized while economic opportunity is found miles further from the city on the Umatilla Reservation where zoning advantages lead to job creation.

On federal lands, it is clear that forestland planning has been a disaster. Timber harvests have slowed to a trickle, timber losses due to insect infestations are far higher than on private lands, and the century-long policy of natural fire suppression has turned many federal forests into tinderboxes. Nowhere was this dysfunction more apparent than on the day we toured Contact Industries, a wood products manufacturing facility in Deschutes County.

This particular facility had gone from a money-losing venture after the cutback on federal logging to a profitable operation through a complete reinvention of its business. However, when asked where the raw logs come from, the manager told us that most logs come from New Zealand and parts of South America, even though in nearby Deschutes National Forest, millions of trees stand that cannot be harvested, including many that have been affected by a forest fire. If burned-over trees cannot be salvaged for logging within a short period of time, they will cease to have any commercial value. But that is likely to be the fate of those trees under a federal planning system that usually reverts to the “do-nothing” option after environmental activists get through filing comments and appeals.

The irony is that Oregon politicians are tripping over themselves to brand the state as a world leader in “sustainability,” yet the state’s most renewable resource — trees — is so over-regulated that we have to import them from halfway around the globe. We outsource the visual trauma of logging so we can look at trees in Oregon, while establishing the preconditions for the next round of catastrophic forest fires.

Tune in next Monday for Part II: Most entrepreneurs don’t want help from the government; they just want to be left alone….


John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 22 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    What a sad comment on the useless, misguided, ill-informed, wasteful, and simply wrong government intervention in our forest lands.
    Anyone who thinks prohibiting the salvage of burned forests is a good thing is obviously not thinking.
    It is sad for Oregon to be so completely messed up. I am deeply ashamed by our supposed “leaders” in Salem who don’t lead or do much of anything else that is worthwhile.
    Sadly, few seem to notice and fewer seem to care.

  • Bob Clark

    You are preaching to the choir, but we support you. We need to keep preaching about the unintended consequences of local, state and federal government regulations. For example what has tighter environmental regulations in the U.S in the last decade and a half brought? It has mostly help caused manufacturing to be re-located overseas in places like China where enviromental filtering does not exist but at the most rudimentry levels. What’s worse is the pollutants in China and other Asian countries are picked up by the jet stream and sent right back to the Northwest. It may well be Oregon’s air is no cleaner than if it had been more environmentally moderate, and allowed more industry and development. I know people generally hate President Bush on almost any issue, but his policies to promote technological innovation to help bring about a cleaner enviromental seem to strike the right balance between environmental and economic goals.

    • Jerry

      Right on Bob. Most people would not admit it, but Bush has been much smarter on the environment that the wacked out lib dems who are in so deep they can’t even see out! Fools.

  • CRAWDUDE

    Not harvesting the forest fire killed wood has never made any sense to me. They leave the branches and unuseable wood there to decompose , the also clear area which make it easier for samplings to grow. Make it a requirement for the lumber companies to plant saplings after harvesting the dead trees, this is a non-argument.

    Unfortunately it shows the headlock the kooky environmental groups have on our liberal government.

    • dean

      I’m not a member of “the choir.” There is so much wrong with John Charles analysis I don’t know where to start.

      But what the heck…”a giant museum where we can’t touch anything”? Right. Farming is “not touching? Commercial forestry is “not touching?” Recreation use, skiing, hiking, cycling, off road vehicle driving, etc…are “not touching? ”

      Very little of Oregon is Wilderness, and even that part is definitely “touched.”

      Oregon’s land use system, while restrictive, does not prevent Pendelton from expanding its urban growth boundary for new industry. The trick is they have to show through analysis that such an expansion is needed. Apparently they have been unable to do so.

      Highest and best use? Okay…who pays for the infrastructure to service ex-urban housing and inudstry John? Open our rural lands up and you will get more scattered housing, not much else. There is a great lab experiment that proves this called THE REST OF THE UNITED STATES.

      I suggest next time John Charles take a drive through the Midwest and Great Plains, an area with virtually no restrictions on rural land use. He might see, as I did, a whole lot of vacant “industrial parks.” Last I looked ‘industry” has up and left the country. Warehousing along freeway interchanges, a very low job producer is the only growth industry that can use those lands.

      On forestry…east side and southern oregon forests are mostly a mess thanks to decades fo fire supression, high grade logging of the big trees, thousands of miles of poorly built logging roads and soil compaction. Throw glogbal warming in and yes, we have a fire and insect problem. It was the timber industry that for years refused to bid on federal timber sales that required logging of the smaller, lower value trees, and that helped lead to the mess we have. Private timber industry lands in eastern and southern oregon are in far worse shape than the federal lands. High rates of soil erosion, poorly stocked stands, brush covered, ruined soils are all common. I could take you to some of these lands in the Applegate Watershed that would make you weep.

      As for insects, private industry lands in teh coast range are heavily infested with Swis needle cast because they planted thousands of acres of monoculture Doug fir where it does not grow naturally. And if you drive Highway 26 to the coast, you will see thousands of acres of blown down plantation forests that the wind flattened, while older forests on federal lands held up much better.

      Get with reality folks. It is scary but we can work with it.

      • CRAWDUDE

        My response was about the rational in not harvesting fire damaged trees that have died or are dying? Why is it that the environmentalists are against that? It seems that, that would give saplings a better environment to grow in.

  • Terry Parker

    It seems the socialist controlling environmentalists are basically selling America to foreign interests by sending US dollars abroad for raw materials (that also require huge transport costs including the use of fossil fuels to bring those products to Oregon for processing) rather than cut dying and dead trees close in to the mills and protect local family wage jobs. Such costly idiotic liberal thinking only demonstrates how out of touch with reality the progressive rhetoric really is.

  • Anonymous

    You know dean, if the rest of us who don’t ascribe to your theory bother you so much, why do you keep reading our comments? You obviously have a closed mind to anything but your own socialist agenda, excuse me, mixed socialist agenda there isn’t much reason. It must be nice to have such perfect ideas as you have.

    • carol

      Stop and think, you’ll be able to figure it out, I am pretty sure that Crawdad knows, Jerry may never understand, but if he thinks about it he may. Dean is having a ball, and he is entertaining the rest of us by provoking the response that he does.

  • Bob Clark

    I went back to the Midwest last summer, namely South and North Dakota, and their economies are doing quite well what with the boom in Agriculture. Michigan and other northern areas of the Midwest are in a down cycle because of union demands, with Southern states (with no unions) getting new automobile plants and the Northern Midwest states shutting down old auto plants because of union driven high wage costs in the latter. Oregon is a perenial economic underperformer as evidenced by its unemployment rate which is usually about 1 percentage point or more above the national average. Measure 37 might have been partially like the Homestead Act in the 1800s and unleashed a new wave of economic prosperity for Oregon but instead Oregonians elected to go back to their bunker style living arrangements (measure 49). Finally, one of the recent landslides that closed down Highway 30 was actually debris coming off of government land, namely, that of Oregon State University.

  • Anonymous

    *Oregon’s land use system, while restrictive, does not prevent Pendelton from expanding its urban growth boundary for new industry. The trick is they have to show through analysis that such an expansion is needed. Apparently they have been unable to do so.*

    Dean, the problem here is with the word “need.” As far as DLCD is concerned, areas outside of Portland metro and the Willamette Valley don’t “need” anything. Thus, it is virtually impossible for rural areas to expand their urban growth boundaries in order to do commercial and industrial development.

    I’ve noticed those on several blogs blaming rural communities for not doing more to help themselves. However, when they try (as our community tried to do a few years ago), they run headlong into those restrictive land use regulations. There is no good reason why it shouldn’t be fairly easy to establish a business in Pendleton or most other such cities. There’s plenty of land to build on that isn’t “prime” farmland and anyone with any common sense knows it. (Isn’t it interesting that we seem to allow plowing under the best farmland in the state — in the Willamette Valley — so that urban Portland can grow, while making growth on marginal lands in rural areas virtually impossible. Kind of makes one wonder what the state’s REAL agenda is!)

    A look at the Oregon Department of Revenue’s household income statistics based on personal income tax returns shows huge discrepancies between household income levels in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas counties (around $70,000) versus those in most eastern, southern, and coastal counties ($40,000 and under). I’m not saying that more sensible land use rules would even these things up. They wouldn’t. But the gap would narrow.

    One of John Charles’ most pertinent points is that what may be good for Oregon’s urban areas doesn’t necessarily make sense in other places. Does Pendleton “need” industrial development? Of course not. Their schools can decline, businesses can fail, people can move to the Portland area, and Pendleton will still exist. It just won’t be as healthy.

    You also say that “THE REST OF THE UNITED STATES” is an example of poor land use. May be. But isn’t it strange that, when a recession comes along, largely white, upper middle-class, well educated Oregon is always near the top in unemployment? That, with all of its advantages, it is among the first states to enter bad economic times and among the last to move back into an upward curve in the economic cycle? Maybe the rest of the country isn’t as dumb as some here like to think.

    • Jerry

      Right on, right on, right on Anon.
      This Dean guy is so left of center he becomes unbalanced at times.
      We need less government, not more.
      It is as simple as that.
      Every time there is a post about anything he always mentions places that are either better than Oregon or the US or worse for whatever reason.
      Methinks he is not a happy person.
      He would be better off living in Cuba, I think. They have really figured out all this Marxist, left-wing government controls everything and they have it down to a science.
      Plus, he can get a really good deal on a collector car from the 50’s.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe if we all pitch in and buy him a one way ticket, he can have his utopia???????

        • dean

          Anon….I have an open enough mind to read comments on a right-wing web site. All you have to do is convince me you are right on any given point and I will let you know.

          Bob…isn’t the midwest ag boom almost entirely related to GOVERNMENT farm subsidies and GOVERNMENT policies requiring corn based ethanol? And isn’t Oregon’s slightly higher unemployment rate caused by our ability to attract young, educated, socially and environmentally progressive people from places like the Midwest? They move here for our attributes and are willing to take lower paying jobs or suffer some unemployment for a time to get their feet set. As a part-time college teacher I have met many in this category.

          Yes, the landslide has been attributed to OSU logging. OSU is also the instutution that is financed by and trains our private timber industry, provides the research that sets loging rules, and for years has ignored the risk of logging on steep headwall landforms. To me, as a natural resource consultant, the slide was no surprise at all.

          Anon…you may be misinterpreting the Pendelton case. They have the same opportunity to show need as anywhere else. Portland is booming because modern intellectual capital is drawn to dynamic urban areas with lots of young, educated talent and a supporting infrastructure. Bend is growing like gangbusters, even faster than Portland. Why Bend and not Pendelton? By conventional measures Bend should be a basket case. Itr was entirely dependent on ranching and logging, both in decline for decades. What changegd? Bend took adavantage of other aspects of its natural resources, particularly outdoor recreation to attract new talent, retires, and new industries. Pendelton seems stuck in the past, at least form this vantage point.

          Jerry…am I so far “left of center” as you say?
          From recent polls on Pollster.com:
          All Gore: 48% favorable, 29% unfavorable
          Gun laws: 51% want more strict, 8% less strict
          Environment: Too little regulation 53%, too much regulation 21%
          Global warming: Agree it is real 71%, disagree 23%
          Government backed health insurance: For 64&, against 33%
          Iraq: favor withdrawing 69%, Stay in 29%
          President Bush: Favor 28-37%, don’t like 56-66% (December)

          If I were you, I would think maybe Jerry is more right of center than Dean is left of center.

          As for the ticket to Cuba, I’m not interested in living there but would agree to a visit. I’ll take donations on that 1-way ticket and pay my own way back. Or better, since I advocate a mixed systemmore weighted to social spending (as in Western Europe) how about you guys finance my way to Sweden or Denmark and I promise to report back on my observations?

          • Jerry

            I am not right or left of anything. I just know what is going on.
            Sorry to disappoint.
            Vive la France!

  • CRAWDUDE

    Never cite polls Dean, I can find one that contradicts yours as you can mine. I’ve never heard of you polling site but perhaps you’ve heard of Zogby……….it’s one of the more respected and all these are Zogbys.

    I’ll have to assume that the poll you cite for Algores popularity is a liberal source since those are the only demographics that are giving him that kinda status. It would also explain why I’m having a hard time finding polls with the results you’re touting from “Pollster.com” (sic)

    I’ll give you the Global Warming poll results with the caveate that I too believe in the phenom. I think a more complete poll would ask: ” Do you believe Global Warming” to be man made or a natural shift in the weather patterns.

    1. GUN CONTROL

    A recent Zogby International poll
    question conducted for Associated Television News found that 66% of the
    American voting public in a recent poll of 1,020 Americans from August
    8-11, 2007 (margin of error of +/- 3.1%) found that the American public
    rejects the notion that new gun control laws are needed.Conversely, only 31% of the American public think new and tougher gun
    control legislation are needed.

    Zogby International (https://www.zogby.com) has been tracking public
    opinion since 1984 in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia,
    and Europe and is a leader in the public opinion field and regularly
    conducts polling for Reuters and MSNBC.

    2. Al Gore popularity ( He doesn’t even reach 48% with democrats)

    When Democratic likely voters were given brief biographical descriptions of the top three Democratic candidates – New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – along with the biography of Gore, the former Vice President won 35% support, while Clinton won 24%, Obama won 22% and Edwards trailed with 10% support. Gore’s bio was the top choice of both men (39%) and women (31%), and also most favored by younger voters. Self-described liberal Democrats strongly favored Gore’s bio (43%) over Clinton (21%), Edwards (17%) and Obama (12%). The bio selections of moderate Democrats closely mirrors the choices of likely Democratic voters overall, with 36% giving the greatest preference to Gore’s bio.

    3. HEALTH CARE (Pretty even split in all demographics besides political affiliations)

    Nearly half (42%) of Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes for everyone to have health insurance, a new Aspen Institute/Zogby Poll shows. When asked if they would be willing to pay higher taxes so that all children could have health insurance, 51% of Americans said they would, with those with lower household incomes showing the most support.

    Slightly more than half of American adults (53%) believe the U.S. government should ensure that every person has health coverage, but support jumps to 76% among those with less than $25,000 in household income.

    These poorest Americans are also most likely to say they would personally be willing to pay higher taxes (61%), however support for higher taxes to fund health insurance for everyone drops significantly among those with higher household incomes. Just 38% of those with more than $75,000 in household income would be willing to pay higher taxes if the government were to provide everyone with health coverage.

    Despite showing the least support for health insurance for all Americans and higher taxes to fund the coverage, 14% of those with more than $100,000 in household income said they have been unable to get the medical care that was needed for themselves or their family, the survey shows. The interactive survey of 1,941 adults nationwide was conducted from Sept. 25-26, 2007, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percentage points.

    While nearly all Democrats (92%) said they favor health care for all, far fewer independents (52%) and Republicans (14%) said the same.

    4. George Bush Popularity…………..he’s got the demacratically controlled congress beat.

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (UPI) — U.S. President George Bush fared poorly among respondents to a UPI-Zogby International poll regarding Iraq but not as badly as the U.S. Congress.

    Fully 96 percent of those asked said the Democratic Party-controlled Congress was either poor (71.3 percent) or fair (24.7 percent) on handling the war in Iraq. Some 2.5 percent said the legislators were “good” and 0.3 percent rated them “excellent.”

    Bush’s ratings nearly glow by comparison but were also low with 55.2 percent giving the Republican president a “poor” grade on Iraq and 15.8 percent rating him “fair.” He was seen as “good” on Iraq by 21.8 percent of respondents and “excellent” by 6.6 percent.

    A slim plurality — not far outside the poll’s 1.2 percentage-point margin of error — said they had more confidence in the Republican Party to deal with Iraq. While 41.2 percent gave the GOP as an answer, 38 percent said the Democrats and 19.1 percent said “neither.”

    The Zogby interactive poll was conducted Sept. 7-10 with 7,081 U.S. residents responding.

    5.Iraq, while not at the 69% you cited, I’ll admit a majority of American would like us to get outta there.

    More than half of the respondents in a UPI-Zogby International poll said they oppose the war in Iraq.

    Some 45 percent of those asked said they strongly opposed the war and 8.8 percent said they were somewhat opposed. Meanwhile, 29.5 percent said they strongly support the war and 15.7 percent said they somewhat support the U.S.-led action.

    Very little of the support came from Democratic respondents, 2.9 percent of whom said they strongly supported the war and 3.2 percent of whom said they somewhat supported it. Fully 83.5 percent of Democrats were strongly opposed to the war and 10 percent were somewhat opposed.

    Republicans weren’t quite as ardent in the other direction but still 59.9 percent of that poll subset said they strongly supported the war and 27 percent somewhat supported it. Some 7.1 percent said they were strongly opposed and 4.5 percent said they were somewhat opposed to the war.

    The Zogby interactive poll, with 7,081 U.S. residents participating, was carried out Sept. 7-10 and has a margin of error of 1.2 percentage points.

    6. IMMIGRATION

    I’m curious Dean , you neglected to cite any polls on illegal immigration. I threw one in for ya just to be fair, note the liberal response please.

    The results of a nationwide poll conducted in partnership with Zogby International concerning the American people’s attitudes towards illegal immigration. Among the highlights of the poll conducted March 22 – 26, 2007:

    Overall, 66% of likely voters believe that more emphasis should be placed on law enforcement when addressing the issue of illegal immigration, including 51.6% of Hispanics and 56.8% of self-described political “liberals.” Only 5% said the emphasis on law enforcement should be diminished, including 3% of Hispanics.

    79% believe public officials should not use taxpayer funds to operate day laborer sites that help illegal aliens, including 71.9% of Hispanics and 70% of self-described political “liberals.”

    72% of likely voters believe local law enforcement officers should help enforce federal immigration laws, including 40% of Hispanics and 55% of self-described political “liberals.”

    “The American people speak with one voice on the topic of illegal immigration. Virtually every voter demographic – even those supposedly most sympathetic to illegal aliens – want our illegal immigration laws to be strictly enforced. The American people want local officials to help address illegal immigration through law enforcement, not taxpayer subsidies and ‘sanctuary’ policies.”

    This telephone survey, conducted by Zogby International, included a target sample of 1,039 interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.

    • dean

      CD…my error. It was pollingreport.com. They compile from different polling organizations, but the ones I cited include CNN and Fox.

      If you check their site go the issues column to verify what I sent.

      My point…even based on the Zogby polls you cite, I am not very far left of center.

      • CRAWDUDE

        Left, center or right…………………………….we’re all dinosuars here. That’s why we enjoy our company so much, most in this country won’t waste their time to get the information to debate, yet alone have the desire to.

    • dean

      CD…on illegal immigration, I would say I’m not out of the Zogby mainstream on that issue either. I would add that in addition to enforcement, it is a better approach to establish a citizenship path for those and their families who have already been here a long time and have stayed out of trouble. I think this is the part of the illegal immigration that tends to separate left and right, not better border security or a crackdown on employers.

      On day labor sites, the question was biased by saying the site would serve “illegal aliens.” I used to be involed in day labor in Chicago, and most day laborers are not here illegally. The proposed Portland site is not designed specifically for “illegal aliens.”

      • CRAWDUDE

        Hey now, illegal immigration is a unique issue , where many people break ranks. Don’t take that as something I was heaping on you personally, I threw it in because its become a national issue.

        Truth be told, I think Bush is a walking cluster F__k, as is Algore and just about any elected national politician. We are down to voting for the one that leaves the leastest bad taste in our mouths. A sad commentary for this country! As once said after the demise of Rome ” All great empires rot from within” Our government has rotted to the point of no return Dean, though you and I won’t be here to see the devastating results, rest assured that the country we are discussing about today, will not be a shadow of its self 100 years from now.

        “So this is how libery dies…………………….with thunderous applause…” Freedom ain’t free, I don’t believe the majority of the people in this country believe or understand Freedom enough to fight for it anymore.

        • carol

          I can’t real off stats like y’all do. If I’ve read them, they have gone from my mind like a will-‘o-the-wisp, but you have me confused Crawdad, when you refer to our government in the same breath as the Roman Empire. I thought that we lived in a Republic, regardless of how hard the cluster f–ks that you refer to are trying to make the transition to an Imperial state.

          • dean

            Carol…sure you can do stats. You just need a good search engine and a notepad. Its separating the useful from the non useful that is a challenge.

            Republic…good idea. But we have 132 garrisons overseas. If that is not an empire then I don’t know what it is.

            CD…that’s a very dark view you have. Politicians right, left, and center are not that bad. Many of them are trying to do what they think is best, but it is a tough arena they have to survive in. In 100 years who knows what this nation and world will be like, but when I look at my kid’s generation (he is 18) I have a lot of hope. They are a bright, idealistic, connected, worldly generation and seem ready to get their oars in the water.

            I think we have different views of individual freedom versus community. There is always going to be a tension between these on many levels, and sometimes it shifts one way or the other. It doesn’t mean the game is about to end.

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)