The Future of Rural Oregon

Kristin Teigen

The period of time between an election and January, when new national, state and local leaders begin their jobs, can always very creative – a time of great possibility. We can look beyond base realities and begin to turn our attention toward policies and approaches that can bring about significant change to intractable problems and worsening conditions.

The issues facing rural Oregon should get such attention. Considering that the perfect storm of economic, environmental and international security crises are leading even the non-religious to thumb through Revelations, it’s quite likely, though, that the concerns of rural communities will be overshadowed.

This shouldn't happen. In rural communities, the rates of poverty and unemployment continue to climb, and their populations are declining. Retirees and vacationing urbanites are bringing in needed cash, but this comes at a cost to rural cultures. Will rural Oregon become home only to retirement communities and resorts, colonies of sorts, for urbanites?

We know that despite his pro-rural rhetoric, Gordon Smith failed completely to bring a lasting solution to such communities of our state. Now that we have better leadership in place, what should we do?

First, a bit of history. As many know, Western states like Oregon have huge swaths of federally owned land that those in the East do not have. Unlike private lands, which generate property taxes, those owned by the federal government are not taxed by county governments. In Oregon, federally owned lands are predominately in rural communities – in some rural counties, over half of the land in their boundaries are federally owned.

For over 100 years, the federal government has acknowledged that Western states are at a disadvantage. Starting in 1908, Congress passed a number of acts that provided federal payments “in lieu of taxes” which frequently provided county governments a portion of timber sale receipts or some form of payment based upon a portion of that which they would have received if they had been able to tax the land.

Starting in the mid to late twentieth century, several environmental laws restricted logging and, in turn, led to a decrease in or, at a minimum, a more complicated process to secure timber sales. Employment dropped and county payments declined. In the 1990's, some Far Right activists successfully passed ballot measures demanding an end to federal title entirely, but they failed to be implemented or were struck down in the courts.

In 2000, the Clinton Administration proposed and Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which granted to counties payments that were based not upon current timber receipts, but upon the more lucrative years of logging in the 1980’s.

It is this piece of legislation, or a version similar to it, that continues to come up for a vote, some form of which eventually passes after cajoling, compromises and despite Bush Administration vetoes. The resulting federal payments have allowed county governments to limp along, but without a secure plan or permanent solution.

President Bush opposed continued county payments and instead suggested that the county governments should be able to sell off portions of federal lands for needed revenue. Many rural counties balked – they recognized that it would be like selling your furniture to pay the bills. There wouldn’t be enough lands to sell and not enough resulting property taxes. Bush failed to provide another viable option.

Regardless of federal policy, the ranges and forests in rural Oregon only have so much to give. The Malheur National Forest , for example, was listed in 2004 as one of the most endangered in the nation, and the Environmental Protection Agency frequently notes the degradation that extensive grazing has had upon Oregon’s grasslands, streams and rivers. It is imprudent to suggest that an economic solution could be found in the continuing exploitation threatened resources.

So, here we are. What should Obama, Merkley, the new legislature and our other leaders do? What should rural communities do? Do we simply allow the economic trends to take their course, creating either ghost towns or resorts? Do we cut more trees and graze more livestock, environment be damned? Can we figure out how to log sustainably – is there such a thing? Do we demand more federal funds? Are there real options for economic alternatives (i.e., the Strawberry Mountain Beef in Grant County)?

What do you think should be done? What does the future hold for rural Oregon?


Comments

  • LT (unverified)
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    Awareness is the first step. Plenty has been written here from a rural perspective.

    In a recent Demoforum speech, Sen. Pres. Courtney (whose district includes rural areas) talked about balancing Senate committees between urban, suburban, and rural members. He also warned Democrats to understand that with a 36 majority, that means members coming from rural areas, and they should not be expected to conform to the politics of city folks.

    One thing a friend from Dallas has talked about is this: always nice to talk about rail as alternative transportation, but many towns like Dallas rely on trucks to bring things to stores in their towns.

  • YoungOregonMoonbat (unverified)
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    Not meaning to flame or anything, but when the Office of Rural Policy goes the way of the Dodo during the Democrats watch in the Legislature and Governor, then that shows to rural Oregon just what Democrats think of rural Oregon.

    Last I remember, Kitzhaber was an MD in Roseburg prior to his involvement in politics. Once he got his Governorship, then it was good bye Roseburg and rural Oregon for the dinner parties with the "I inherited all from Daddy" wannabe power brokers up in Portland, OR

    Don't get me wrong. DeFazio has been the last liberal lion for rural Oregon and I appreciate him for not forgetting where he came from and who elected him.

    Besides Defazio, Democrats really don't have much credibility with rural Oregon.

  • Chris Randall (unverified)
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    Having grown up in Umatilla county (which is de facto all rural) I now reside in Mill City, which is far enough from Salem to not be an exurb like Stayton, and thus relies almost entirely on logging for sustenance. So I've seen both the agricultural rural Oregon and the logging rural Oregon close-up and for extended periods.

    The one thing both types of rural Oregonian have in common is that they're, by and large, social issues voters. Even if our state rep (who is candy apple red Sherrie Sprenger) decided to piss all over our district's loggers and farmers for two years, she'd win re-election in a walk as long as she stood on 1st Avenue in Stayton and said she was gonna fight "that Portland liberal agenda."

    Couple that with the fact that almost all mayoral and county positions are non-partisan, which effectively means hereditary, and you're left with what, exactly? The day that younger rural Oregonians actually decide to give a shit about something besides shooting signs in the national forests is the day that Libertarians have a controlling majority in the state Senate.

    Sorry, but from my vantage point in ruby-red Mill City, it's hard to be sanguine about this sort of thing.

  • Carla Axtman (unverified)
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    Besides Defazio, Democrats really don't have much credibility with rural Oregon.

    Wyden seems to have quite a bit of cred in rural Oregon. He's certainly gets lots of good writeups in the local papers, anyway.

    I think you sell Democrats pretty short.

  • Mike O'Brien (unverified)
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    My wife and I made a donation to a rural county's family services center, as a way of saying thank you for people hosting us as we visited their beautiful lands from our home in Portland. Many of us city folk love to travel to rural Oregon for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, so we ought to think about supporting the people who live there and make or visits so enjoyable.

    I don't agree with the conservative social values, but we won't change them by sneering, it's going to take some positive interactions around our common interests.

  • Mike O'Brien (unverified)
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    My wife and I made a donation to a rural county's family services center, as a way of saying thank you for people hosting us as we visited their beautiful lands from our home in Portland. Many of us city folk love to travel to rural Oregon for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, so we ought to think about supporting the people who live there and make or visits so enjoyable.

    I don't agree with the conservative social values, but we won't change them by sneering, it's going to take some positive interactions around our common interests.

  • YoungOregonMoonbat (unverified)
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    Carla,

    I am not selling the Dems short as we both know that those who "write" in the newspaper are tried and true liberals anyway.

    Last I recall in my 20+ some odd years of life, journalism majors and journalists in particular seem to be more liberal than those who dwell on mainstreet.

    Dispute me all day and night on that point, but I beg to differ.

    I can tell you that from graduating high school in Pendleton, OR that those writers in the East Oregonian do not reflect the majority values of the community that they write about. They would feel more at home in downtown Portland and Eugene than downtown Pendleton in all honesty.

    That being said, I would not trust any "local paper" as "rural oregon" unless it was east starting from Biggs, West starting from Banks, South starting from Roseburg, and north....well damn it! We are as north as north.

    As for Wyden, you are right in that regard. Thank you for correcting Carla. However, I still differ with him on the issue of "free trade", but I have not forgotten that it was Wyden who supported the Timber dollars.

    I stand humbled and corrected.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    I tend to agree with Chris. Rural Oregon doesn't care about much more than their social agenda. They have been screwed right and left by Republicans, but still vote for them in overwhelming numbers. What other reason could it be than social agenda?

    I refuse to believe that rural Oregonians are too "dumb" to know about when they're getting screwed and by who. I have strong ties to a rural community in another state that is strikingly similar to Oregon in this regard.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I'm interested in knowing what the long term objectives of rural residents are. Do they desire and expect a growth in their local economy that would support significant increases in their own population (as opposed to a bunch of out-of-state homeowners and rich people moving in)? Or, are they hoping for, and would be satisfied with a stabilization (with modest improvements)in their current standard of living with present population levels?

    I really think that at least some people in the state should be able to choose and enjoy the rural lifestyle. Near as I'm able to tell from the news, for most people that have been born and raised there, that lifestyle tends to be lean. That should be o.k. to a certain reasonable limit, and hopefully it's an acceptable trade-off to those residents. How to ensure that current levels of Oregonians are able to continue partaking in that lifestyle, is a good question.

    I hate to see that happen by way of mowing down forests or covering open land with housing developments. Last night, I happened to be watching Oregon Field Guide on OPB, the segment on Zumwalt Prairie. If what I saw on tv is any indication of reality, it's gorgeous with grand vistas and indigenous vegetation and wildlife. I've never even yet had a chance to go visit Zumwalt Prairie. And what I learned from the program, is that this area is all private owned, some of it already up for sale for private housing parcels.

    To provide an income for rural residents, as a state, are we going to have to allow areas like this to be developed, dramatically diminishing it's delicate and rare beauty ?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Here's a different take on the question. I think the perfect storm alluded to in the base post, when played out against a backdrop of increasing tele-everything, video conferencing approaching actually being there, high bandwidth networks and greater acceptance of various interconnect protocols, will lead to urbanites repopulating rural areas, leaving the cities in droves.

    In that view, the concept of rural would drop away, as it just becomes a wherever, and the debate on BO will be "how do urban areas get any attention from a legislature that's totally driven by the attentions of middle-class", with most living in what we're calling rural areas. Not all rural areas are as nice places to live. If anywhere means anywhere, rural Oregon will be full of people from rust belt and northeastern cities as well.

    If accurate, repopulation would increase property values by quite a lot. I'm serious about this and I don't think we're talking 20 years, either. At least I'm talking within the lifetime of a TBond. So, my approach for dealing with rural neglect would be for rural areas to take care of their own for the present, funding programs by mortgaging property holdings. When the shift happens in the future, they can use taxes on land sales to pay everything back, and by then State gov will only be interested in rural issues.

    Yes, there's probably not that much "property holdings" and you couldn't leverage it for much now, so there should be some government help in the form of reduced interest rates or such.

    Maybe I'm very biased and just don't get the urbanite philosophy, but I've lived in a major city 90% of my life, and I consider the nicest bit at the most idyllic moment to be an odious, sad, imitation of the most mundane rural existence. Maybe it's just the commie in me wanting everyone to get back to the fields to get real, but I think a great number of people feel the same, deep down, and, given the choice, will leave the city. Now, there's a horror for rural conservatives. If I'm right about the migration, it'll be the far left, tree huggers and Naderites joining you first!

    Look how far we've come in only the last 10 years. When you sit across from someone on the bus and they're surfing Facebook or whatever, where is that person at? How far apart are you? Who's closer, the guy she's texting in Belgium or you? It won't be long until she will be your boss and have different ideas how to get the work done when there's...pick any combo of disasters and add bird flu...to deal with.

  • LB (unverified)
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    I was born and raised on the Oregon coast. Social issues are fringe issues where I come from. On the Oregon coast, voters are concerned about the economy. They've been concerned about the economy since the bust of the logging industry. Want to do something to support rural voters - improved the economic condition of the working class and the lower middle class. Coasties are also concerned with hunting and fishing. A significant minority are also concerned with the environment - I'd wager their are more coastal environmentalists than gay obsessed right-wingers.

    I suggest, if you are really concerned for rural Oregon, work to provide work programs that clean up the streams and re-vitalize the estuaries. Stop raising gas taxes, instead raise the tax on the box offices. If we saw a large enough shift to tax on box offices, then perhaps we'd see small business begin to survive in rural main street. Create green jobs - in stream and wetland restoration and in green energy - by taxing corporations and the rich. Fund public-non-profit initiatives to increase the health of estuaries and for duck populations with access for the working class not just the pay to shoot rich. Clean up streams to provide jobs and fish habitat. Tax luxuries, pollution, estates, and exorbitant wealth. Re-allocate and increase police funds - hire more police - toward fighting environmental crime, white collar crime, and violent crime. Take the funds away from investigating pot smokers. Finally, support rural education, community colleges, and increase workforce development. Increase access to health care for the working class.

    A sure way to upset rural Oregon is to tax the poor and middle class, take away guns, or take away their civil liberties.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    The best hope for rural Oregon is for new people to move into rural Oregon fueled by a new economy, and new energy resources. The culture of present rural Oregon is hopeless. They take their marching orders from James Dobson and don't seem to care if they have a living wage, or if their kids get health care, or if their seniors have social security or medicare. It's all about the rapture and who gets saved and who is "left behind." It's all about apocalyptic end time thinking.

  • LB (unverified)
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    Wow, the level of classism on this thread is rising. I am reminded of DuBois' writings on how it feels to be a problem. Rural folk just need to be taught the right values, just like blacks and everything will be fine. No, rural folk vote for their own interests. Their interests lie in securing more jobs and in less taxes (for themselves). However, their interests also lie in more job training, health care, and having a clean environment. When you are struggling to put food on the table, you are not going to quibble about trace amounts of toxins in that food. No use pointing fingers at the victims.

    Enough with the culture wars already. If the youth are any consideration, the right-wing fundamentalists have lost. . .

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I would agree with many thoughts here. However, "better" leadership has yet to be determined. I would go for "different" leadership until some substantive and meaningful achievements come forth.

    Rural Oregon is no less, no more stuck culturally than urban Oregon. here we want good jobs, clean air and a representative government that doesn't tax us to death. Want to provide for rural Oregon? start by allowing the counties the cut agreed to under the Clinton Forest Plan. Help provide for good opportunity with fishing, agriculture and forestry without chocking them off. Additional help can come from recognizing that rural Oregon is not the exclusive recreational playground of urban Oregon.

    All of Oregon needs to come together, bury the proverbial cultural hatchet (perhaps in a Doug Fir?) and move forward with meaningful programs that help ALL of Oregon rather than just one partisan special interest group at the expense of another.

  • Ted (unverified)
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    Some ideas which each have a new set of problems go with them:

    1) A recently discovered, giant aquifer exists under the Cascades, which is one of the largest fresh water supplies in America. That could be sold and piped to the thirsty Southwest for a profit, but would need to be managed to prevent depletion, because that thirst will never go away.

    2) Solar and wind farms in Easter Oregon could be used to generate much power, but probably wouldn't impact employment enough. Wave farm technology or floating wind turbines on the coast would be another industry.

    3) Industrial hemp production, based on new laws in Oregon permiting its use and the political will to fight for it. Industrial hemp could limit the impact from logging and fill the raw material stream for pulp production. However, it would have to be managed to prevent it taking over as an invasive species like bamboo did in Hawaii.

    4) In theory, the Cascades should be full of diamonds, but de Beers would never allow rival diamond production and use all means to prevent it, including political bribes and extortion as it did in Australia which tried to cultivate its diamond industry in the 70s. It's probably a Pandora's Box that shouldn't be opened.

    Like it or not, the tourism and retirement industry is probably one of the best options. It's practically default policy by liberal, urban Oregon right now. It's also an advantage Oregon has to ride out the long recession we're in for. Pandering to retiring baby boomers who accumulated wealth in their lifetimes is one of the only sure bets in this economy.

  • Lauren Paulson (unverified)
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    I attended Washington County's 'Urbanization Forum' two days ago. It was the fourth meeting. This 'Forum' is Washington County's effort to ensure that all additions to the Urban Growth Boundary are annexed to cities. It was an impressive gathering. Virtually all of the county's mayors were there along with the heads of the service districts in the county. The audience was filled to overflowing. The facilitator, Mark Cushing, from Tonkon Torp downtown law firm had a daunting task: Explaining why three of five Washington County Commissioners were NOT there for this pivotal meeting. In the meantime an interstate natural gas facility with the blessing of the federal Energy Regulatory Commission plans to slice through Washington County's valuable farmlands with a pipeline that could easily be built on existing right-of-ways. I went to the public meeting. No Washington County Commissioner was there. Nobody is talking about economic meltdown nor the real estate slowdown in the county. When it comes to hard decisions for Washington County and its citizens, real citizens, its leaders are missing in action. Waiting for the next con job.

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    I am not selling the Dems short as we both know that those who "write" in the newspaper are tried and true liberals anyway.

    Then frankly, you don't read many local papers from rural Oregon. Is Hasso Herring from the Albany paper a "liberal"? Can you show me his "liberal" editorials or pieces? What about Scotta Callister at the Blue Mountain Eagle in John Day..? Is she a "liberal"? Not based on the editorials I've seen..yet Wyden manages to get decent writeups.

    I can continue pointing out rural papers/editors and we can hash over whether or not they're "liberal", but IMO you'd be pretty hard pressed to make that case based on the content of their editorials.

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    As for Wyden, you are right in that regard. Thank you for correcting Carla. However, I still differ with him on the issue of "free trade", but I have not forgotten that it was Wyden who supported the Timber dollars.

    I stand humbled and corrected.

    I forgot to put this in for YOM...thanks.

  • Lee Donnell, Saved (unverified)
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    "Posted by: Bill R. | Dec 13, 2008 7:38:48 AM

    The best hope for rural Oregon is for new people to move into rural Oregon fueled by a new economy, and new energy resources. The culture of present rural Oregon is hopeless. They take their marching orders from James Dobson and don't seem to care if they have a living wage, or if their kids get health care, or if their seniors have social security or medicare. It's all about the rapture and who gets saved and who is "left behind." It's all about apocalyptic end time thinking."

    Y'all talk like you can just move in anytime you want! We have taken our communities back from the liberal establishment and are not about to let it go to hell again! No, we don't want new construction like abortion clinics and vegetarian groceries and new jobs like slinging rock from every street corner and the kind of mongrel stoopid thinking that's given us "Hope and Change".

    We don't want any change, and you had better hope you don't try to move in next door lest your lifelong hate of firearms lead you to a nasty at-home accident! Meanwhiles, we're still debating if the bunch that stole the election are going to be allowed to live in the People's House. Chew on that with yer sprouts!

  • ws (unverified)
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    People moving back to rural Oregon in great numbers might be an appealing idea, but rural Oregon probably can't support a big population. People haven't moved away from rural Oregon because they don't like living there. They moved away because they can't provide for themselves. All the industries (such as mining, forestry, cattle ranching, commercial fishing) that supported bigger rural populations in the past have spun out because they haven't been sustainable.

    Forests have always seemed to be cut according to the demands of the market rather than according to the ability of the forest to sustain itself as a natural forest. So, in exchange for that bargain, where the timber industry prevails, far too often, the result is tree plantations. That's killing the goose to get the golden eggs.

    I wonder if it might truly be possible to develop tourism into an industry that would provide a revenue source for rural Oregon residents, but not dramatically alter or compromise the lands in rural Oregon. Eco-tourism, if it had sufficient appeal, could do that. A lot of resort developers would probably think more quickly in terms of big golf courses as a means of attracting tourist dollars.

  • wharf rat (unverified)
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    Hi Folks,

    Since moving from Ashland to Las Vegas a couple of years ago I've drifted away from my work involving rural development issues but haven't lost interest in the issues.

    It's been about thirty years since the big log peeler mills started to go under followed by increasing imports from Canada, New Zealand and Chile of commodity lumber from smaller stock through declining yield from Federal land for BOTH economic/market and environmental reasons. One constant, though, has bee the unreasonable demand from rural residents and rural politicians that Federal land provide them a sustainable living and lifestyle.

    Counties should collect taxes from people and activity within their jurisdictional boundaries. Jackson County shouldn't be able to reach across to JoCo and tax stuff. So why should JackCo think that it can get revenue from Federal land? In my home county in Montana [2000 people/1800 square miles/90% Fed] the county posted signs " No County Services Beyond This Point"....no Search and Rescue, no road maintenance [unless contracted and paid for by the landowner, Feds and Plum Creek], etc. Federal land was the Feebs responsibility unless they covered the costs.

    Rural counties need to learn to [a] treat Federal lands as if they were separate counties and [b] establish a tax rate inside the practical county jurisdiction reflecting the level of services desired by county residents.

    Best Regards

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    The best hope for rural Oregon is for new people to move into rural Oregon fueled by a new economy, and new energy resources. The culture of present rural Oregon is hopeless. They take their marching orders from James Dobson and don't seem to care if they have a living wage, or if their kids get health care, or if their seniors have social security or medicare. It's all about the rapture and who gets saved and who is "left behind." It's all about apocalyptic end time thinking.

    I agree. The best way to deal with all those ignorant rural yokels is to treat them like the mindless animals that they are. After all, it is true that every single person in rural Oregon is a end-times Christian. I think the reason these areas are so economically depressed is because these apes spend all their time praying instead of working.

    Once we've successfully transplanted Portland society to places like Brookings and Gold Beach, we won't have to put up with their odious "opinions" and barbaric ways. It's so vexing to meet people (and I use the word loosely) who don't prioritize universal health care and a living wage the same way I do. My life partner catches the vapors every time she has to see some hick drive by in some Earth-killing 4-wheel drive truck. These rednecks just don't get it, and frankly, I'm offended! I've had enough! Everything will be so much nicer once their social betters start running the trash out of their quaint little villages, don't you agree?

    Really, it just makes me sick to look at them. I bet they've never even been on a tour of Willamette Valley wineries. How dreadfully common.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Vincent, what would Jonathan Swift have thought of your "modest proposal"?

    Geographic stereotyping ("Mass. liberal" or "rural yokel") is not something I support.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    Jonathan Swift would have been disappointed that I'm not advocating eating babies.

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    Vincent, actually I think Swift would be quite impressed with your post.:)

  • Ron Morgan (unverified)
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    "I agree. The best way to deal with all those ignorant rural yokels is to treat them like the mindless animals that they are."

    Or as cultural artifacts under the protective regime of the Bureau of Ecotourism. After all, the "trash" is what makes a visit to rural Oregon authentic! As the indigenous rural Oregonians die off, as sadly they must, they can be replaced by actors, like at Colonial Williamsburg...

  • YoungOregonMoonbat (unverified)
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    Carla,

    When I am wrong, I will fully admit that I have been corrected. I am not some bullheaded prick like I Am Coyote who uses every logical fallacy to make it look as if I am correct to those not schooled in logic 101.

    I do believe that the journalists who do report tend to more liberal than the editors and column writers. This is my belief and I do not negotiate my beliefs until I see by own eyes otherwise.

  • Close Emphasis attempt (unverified)
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  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Chew on that with yer sprouts! Actually, I would like to chew you a new one, but I'm on a low fat diet.

    And that's funny, Vincent. People that live in the valley that cringe at the attitude you describe call it West Coast shallowness, or, more locally, a Trendy-Third Ave Mentality. Of course the ones that agree that the nicest bit at the most idyllic moment to be an odious, sad, imitation of the most mundane rural existence don't quite fit the mold.

    And I am disappointed you didn't propose eating babies. Don't you have some bird eggs to trample on the beach? Just kidding; it's too easy to do both ways. Valley types that think it through have as much trouble with urban cat owners that let their charges hunt songbirds or tourists feeding the gray squirrels.

    That should draw fire from both sides.

    Seriously, why not just give the Fed lands to the states? It could fund my proposal.

  • Harry (unverified)
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    Why don't you urbanites stay in your urban utopia, and leave the rural folks to their rural areas?

    Do you hear a bunch of Dayville hypocrits talking about moving to Portland to infuse their rural culture into the urban cultural ghetto of Portlandia?

    Okay, you and your Neil Goldschmidt think-alikes can come on out to "the middle of nowhere" for your Broken Top golf vacations, but please don't move here! And when you are here, please be more accepting of the local culture.

    Your behavior is like that of the Ugly American tourist in Europe. Demanding everybody speak English, and wanting a McDonalds and Starbucks at every street corner.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    From someone who has lived in "tourist destinations" let me assure you that it is one of the worst possible economic models. Some tourism is a nice enough thing, after that it becomes a nightmare.

    I'll try to put this nicely, urban solutions show your best thinking which also involves living in an urban environment, something we "rurals" don't think involves real good judgment or we probably wouldn't be rural. One of the problems a state like this one faces is that the legislative power resides in one sort of an area and frequently decisions are made that are a poor fit for the other area - and then resented.

    As far as PILT is concerned the proper solution would be a survey of Federal lands and a payment made on the basis of county tax assesment of same land types at a percentage basis, say 80% since the land won't be used. The solution of putting it into a schools fund is nonsense since it is then spread around all OR counties not the affected ones. It would seem that since there was a contract to make Payment In Lieu of Taxes that has been breached...

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    The problem with federal lands is that they once were OURS. When the feds took them (I believe under Teddy Roosevely) the payments system was developed. Those who would do away completely with federal payments entirely AND deny some degree of self determination regarding responsible use of public lands that gives back to the counties is intellectually dishonest. Oh, and tourism and recreation IS NOT a panacea.

  • Jeff Alworth (unverified)
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    Kristen, thanks for a wonderful, well-reasoned post.

    I think it's worth exploding a few assumptions that have been running throughout some of the comments, both from rural Oregonians and urban ones.

    1. The rural/urban divide is a psychic one only. The truth is that they're two limbs of the same organism. If either one is damaged, the whole suffers. I would love it if we quit thinking of these as separate.

    2. A lot of people who read BlueOregon are rural liberals. The idea that all urbanites can be stereotyped as tattoed NE Portlanders with Kucinch buttons and all ruralites as "saved" hunters with Sarah Palin stickers on their trucks is wrong. Oregon is more diverse than that, particularly when you start breaking down politics by issues.

    3. It's not all about religion. My relatives have an onion farm near Vale. The third generation is now working on it. You could talk politics all day long with these flinty, conservative farmers and never mention God. They have real issues and real concerns, and dismissing them as the fantasies of Pat Robertson totally misses the point. Likewise, the idea that liberals are wholly secular and "damned" is the kind of overheated rhetoric that destroys communication.

    We need a healthy rural Oregon that doesn't depend on urban Oregon's largesse for survival. The future of extractive industries has plateaued. Logging will never return to mid-century dominance. Farming, ranching, and fishing will not grow and will probably decline in size in the coming decades. Rural Oregon, built on economies of extraction, need to look to some future that doesn't depend on these. Green energy might offer some hope--wind energy has put some money back into the Gorge. Encouraging investment in solar might be a possibility--there's a lot of sun east of the Cascades.

    And even within the extractive industries, rural Oregon could lead the way in evolving to 21st Century demands. The localvore movement offers an opportunity for Oregon farmers to supply Oregon retailer and consumers, rather than plugging into the international industrial food chain. This keeps money in local communities and encourages family farming.

    Oregon has the nation's largest stand of forests. The world will continue to need lumber, so this represents an enormous opportunity for the state to develop techniques of harvesting that both take advantage of our resources and also create healthier, less fire-prone forests. In one way, the collapse of the economy may be the moment when the old way of logging is forced out of business, creating the possibility of a new paradigm.

    Oregon's leaders should make a serious commitment to investing in rural Oregon, beyond promoting resorts and tourist destinations. It's in every Oregonian's interest.

  • Jeff Alworth (unverified)
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    Sorry, Kristin. Dang.

  • jrw (unverified)
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    Dear Lord, the amount of ignorance on this thread is mind-boggling. Except for Jeff, Chuck Butcher, LT and a handful of others, it reads like a bunch of knee-jerk reactionaries on both sides of the issue.

    Painting rural Oregon--or even urban Oregon--with a broad brush is rather foolish. How many now-urbanites who aren't about to move to the country came here from Dayville? Or other small towns? A lot more than people realize. How many urbanites who've come to Oregon from other states know much more about the differing natures of rural Oregon?

    As for the person who'd lived in both Pendleton and Mill City, citing their attitudes on social issues as the mainstay of rural Oregon--uh-uh. No. Both Pendleton and Mill City are known quantities in political circles as having been the center of various political organizing coalitions. Mill City in particular has been home to several conservative organizers--including the Yellow Ribbon Coalition many years ago which was anti-wilderness. Anyone else remember when Yellow Ribbon meant logging supporter and not veterans?

    Most of rural Oregon is about economic survival unless they've got some ambitious local politico with their eye on higher office. Some of those are genuine locals and others moved to rural locations to build a base because it was easier. Economic survival is going to trump social issues any day, especially in an area where the price of gas is going to affect how you get to work every day, how you're going to get food, and how you're going to stay warm.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    Wife and I are from two different towns on east side of Cascades. My home town was discovered by west side tourists and high tech rich retirees and is doing just fine. Her home town is down to a population slightly below 400 and is dying due to economic circumstances. The hard truth is that most rural towns were created a hundred years ago out of economic necessity related to railroading, farming, ranching, mining, or timber. With the changes in the last 100 years, many rural communities have no further reason to exist except for the (sometimes unrealistic) hopes and dreams and civic pride of the longtime residents. Rapid consolidation of school districts, municipalities, and even entire counties is probably the best solution. Subsidization is not likely to lead to long term solutions - only delays the inevitable.

    By the way, the posters who portray rural populations as consisting entirely of gun toting religious fanatic rubes are idiots. My successful farmer relatives like to drive Range Rovers and drink single malt scotch every bit as much as my pals in the West Hills.

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    Incidentally, my relatives are among the most hi-tech people I know. Few industries rely as heavily on cutting-edge tech as farming, particularly those who farm in arid regions like Vale. The idea of a rural/urban tech gap is another myth.

  • SCB (unverified)
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    WS asks, "I'm interested in knowing what the long term objectives of rural residents are."

    I'm a "rural resident" and I can tell you, we don't all agree or speak with a uniform voice. It's like asking, "what do urban residents have as long term objectives", mixing together Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, and Bend.

    Your question as written makes no sense.

    What do we as individual Oregonians want? I think that on average Oregonians want a fairly simple life. Economic stability, good schools (both K-12 and University), access to health care, and freedom from the negatives like crime and pollution. I don't see any urban/rural split on that.

    Having said that, the economics of rural areas is often dictated by urban center political choices. Just look at Oregon's Statewide ballot measures in the last 20 years. How many targeted urban areas? None. How many targeted rural areas? Well, lets see - the fencing measure, the logging measure, the hunting cougars and bears measure - Hell I don't remember them all, those are just the ones the come to mind first.

    Kristen properly talks about PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) as a key rural issue. Half of my County (Crook Co. in Central Oregon) is owned by the Federal Government. We don't get any property tax from that. We should have a regular and predictable revenue stream from that property owner - e.g. the Federal Government in the form of a PILT formula. I'm past caring if its even fair, just predictable would be great. Imagine all the ups and downs in County Government these last years as the formulas for County payments have changed about 15 times in the last 20 years - from adequate to Zero, and then over to inadequate but something.

    I could go on rehashing old themes on the urban/rural divide here, but I'd like to look forward, in a sense where Kristen started, but drifted.

    We have a distinct opportunity as Democrats to make significant in-roads upon the Republican control of rural politics. This is because, just below the repression of information in rural areas by the Republican owned press, the truth is starting to bubble up. Obama is very popular with rural youth. People are starting to ask, "why is the economy so bad?". The themes of blaming Democrats for everything that goes wrong, and showing the Republicans as coming to the rescue is wearing out. (e.g. the local press protraying the Klamath water crisis as being the Democrats fault but the rescue came from Smith and Walden - good Republicans fighting that big Democrat Party controlled Government). Sometimes the lies just wear out, and the truth gets known anyway.

    So, these are the things that need to happen to start a come-back by Democrats in rural Oregon:

    1. Make sure that all services have consideration given to rural problems. Health care, education, transportation, and upgrades of infrastructure have special considerations needed for the rural issues of thin population, distance, and access. (e.g. per capita spending approaches in particular won't work very well)

    2. Make sure that economic development is not done in broad strokes, but rather is locally sensitive. For example, bio-mass energy production could easily be linked to the same effort needed to reduce fire hazards in our National Forests and BLM ranges. Take out dead trees, reduce fuel loads, reduce Juniper trees (and as a by-product increase stream flows), and remove other invasive plant species - and then turn that effort into sustainable energy production - and you then have a piece of a "new" rural economy.

    3. Creativity is needed in both urban and rural Oregon. A whole lot of effort has gone into development of alternative transportation in urban Oregon (e.g. MAX and streetcars). Yet, name one government investment on a similar scale in rural Oregon. .... Just one .... The Governors rebuilding the bridges concept comes the closest, but it is really just a replacement program, and offers nothing new. I can envision solar farms that produce hydrogen gas, which can be condensed and shipped as "liquid" energy. I can envision wind and solar farms that put electricity on the grid. I can envision better use of agricultural waste for natural fertizers. I can envision the Arlington dump, where Portland sends its garbage, becoming a methane producer. There are lots of things we can do if we actively invest in local creativity. Funds for start-up demostration projects might go a long way to restarting our rural economy.

    So, bottom line, just having equal inclusion in the process of looking forward, and local control of what happens locally - that is all I thing we really need or want in rural Oregon, or rural anywhere.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I think I can understand why some people wouldn't be excited about too much emphasis on tourism as a means providing income for rural Oregonians. Serving the public isn't the same as working for yourself. Also, giving up vacations is probably one of the first things people let go of when times are tough. Eco-tourism though, seems like a good way to raise Oregonians awareness of their state's beauty and provide some income to rural Oregonians with comparatively less negative impact to wild lands than occurs from other kinds of tourism.

    That there isn't a rural/urban tech gap wouldn't be a surprise to me. Occasionally in the O, I run across articles reporting high tech aspects associated with rural industries and activities, but not a lot of them. Maybe the coverage on that subject, offered to valley residents by the O is lacking. High tech issues and efforts that rural and valley/urban residents have in common is also a topic I think the Oregon State Fair has neglected to use for improvement in the fair's success.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Tourism may bring outside money into a community, but it carries huge consequences. Firstly you create a population with no stake in the community, behaviorally or economically. You create low wage service jobs where the only ones holding even are the owners. The costs to infrastructure are borne by those not doing the damage or using them - the locals. Property prices climb out of the reach of any but those coming in and those owning their services. The very things considered attractive are destroyed by overuse and carelessness and the formerly friendly population becomes surly thanks to too many people with their local restraints on behavior removed and the accompanying chaos and just plain numbers crowding formerly calm areas.

    Tourist based economy is horrid for anyone other than a handful.

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    Kurt,

    The land was never "ours" as in belonging to Oregonians. Oregon, as every other Western state, was carved out of federally owned land that was bought or "won" through wars with other countries and inhumane conquest of Native Americans.

    When states were formed, provisions in admissions acts ensured that the new states knew that significant portions of land belonged to the federal government. In turn, the federal government gave huge grants of federal lands to the state.

    I wanted to start a conversation without inserting my own opinions but I did want to say that I don't agree that rural communities should be disregarded simply because they vote conservative...I grew up in rural Montana and the experiences I had there formed my politics and opinions just as much as those that came from living in groovy Eugene and radical San Francisco. Rural experiences are a vital aspect to our overall national culture and politics, and should never be disregarded in policy discussions.

  • ws (unverified)
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    SCB, thanks... . I struggle to articulate the questions I want answers to. My hope is that rural Oregon residents that choose to continue living there, will be able to develop some source of income that will continue allowing them to do that. Is whatever means necessary to accomplish this going to involve, for example, wind farms occupying many square miles of open land? Or some form of residential housing tracts on open land? I'm wondering what kinds of trade-offs are going to be necessary to secure the continuing lifestyle in rural Oregon that many Oregon residents (and non-Oregon residents) either have or would like very much to have.

  • LT (unverified)
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    ws, Sen. President Courtney talked recently about how the 2009 Senate committees and committee chairs were chosen.

    He strove to balance urban, suburban, and rural concerns by appointing members from all those areas.

    Having the Senate President and the leader of Senate Republicans come from districts containing farms goes a long way to start a conversation. The Oregon Channel had a hearing recently which talked about a hearing that had been held on the subject of land use. One of the problems apparently is the question of destination resort vs. long term residency. Are roads created which lead to lots where homes are never built? What does that pavement leading nowhere do to the enviornment? Can the local water, sewage, etc. handle permanent homes?

    There are great problems of that sort in rural areas--one reason young farmers worried about water were so involved in the Measure 49 campaign. There are the problems like a roadside restaurant which has great food but no indoor seating and no restrooms--there just isn't enough water or sewage available in their location (but on the other side of the freeway there is).

    Those are specific concerns to the area involved, not "rural concerns".

    Democrats should be the detail people and leave the generalities to the Republicans.

  • SCB (unverified)
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    WS -

    On the south side of the Maury Mts., north of the GI Ranch, there are places that no more than 100 people see a year. A wind farm would do nicely there. Over in Wheeler County, there are parts of BLM allotments in the Anton Ranch area that fewer than 50 people see a year. Solar farm?

    The great limitation on having more people live here is water. The Deschutes basin, inclusive of the Crooked River basin, is close to being at its limit. All new growth is an offset to existing uses. That is to say, any new well for a city or commercial use requires that a farmer sell his/her water rigths, and in the exchange put 10% back into the river flow. I don't know the exact formula, but it looks like every 1,000 new homes will kill about 40 acres of agricultural use.

    Sometimes sustainability means a balance of things we'd rather not consider balancing. For Central Oregon, we are going to have to (sooner or later) look at population growth as something we can no longer afford, or balance. We have some time yet, but that day is within sight.

    So, we have to figure out how to be viable, sustainable, economically vibrant - and how to limit population.

    And the place to start, is for our urban neighbors to knock off romanticizing rural areas. There is no part of rural Oregon that deserves to be seem as idealic, pristine, or unusable. (Not that you were doing that WS, I'm speaking to the wider group of urbanites that would return rural areas to a pre-settlement level for their tourist pleasures.)

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    SCB --

    I really agree with that last comment -- after growing up in a rural environment, I know how challenging it can be to make a living and it infuriates me when people move to a rural setting assuming the economic conditions will somehow sustain them. They move there because it's just so darn pretty and assume that it will all work out despite the fact that you can't go on down the road to get another job if you decide your current one just doesn't feed your soul...

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    SCB --

    I really agree with that last comment -- after growing up in a rural environment, I know how challenging it can be to make a living and it infuriates me when people move to a rural setting assuming the economic conditions will somehow sustain them. They move there because it's just so darn pretty and assume that it will all work out despite the fact that you can't go on down the road to get another job if you decide your current one just doesn't feed your soul...

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)
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    In this morning's reading I came across a couple of articles on the growth of the auto industry in the Southern U.S. The question at this point is how is it that the Southern stataes have been able to develop an auto industry, but Oregon with its shipping services and air flights to Asia been unable to attract any such business ventures?

    TLG

  • trishka (unverified)
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    i read a proposal put together by a consortium of washington watershed councils that suggests the fed gov't provide funding for the removal of unused loggging roads in federal forests. apparently, there are thousands of miles of abandoned logging roads that cause all kinds of environmental problems as they're left to degrade on their own. removing them would provide living-wage work to locals, use a lot of the same type of heavy machinery that loggers know how to use, and would have positive environmental effects as well.

    now all we need is money! but seriously, this could be an aspect of the new green economy that obama is promising us.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Kristen, I respectfully disagree. The land now known as Oregon was originally part of the Oregon Territories established by the Lewis and Clark Expedition post Louisiana Purchase. The history of nations is the history of conquest. that we treated the indigenous inhabitants very badly is on record and something we still should be ashamed of as a people.

    However, the "Federal Lands, BLM land and Federal Forests" in Southern Oregon are all part of land grants originally given to the Oregon & California Rail Road. When the O&C Rail road went under, the O&C lands reverted by deed to the people of Oregon. Those lands later were appropriated under the Teddy Roosevelt Administration in order to create the federal parks and land system. They recognized at the time that the federal land grab was depriving counties of income producing property so the system of logging and mining fees going to the counties was established. Later, under the Clinton Administration, further recognition created the direct federal payments in further recognition that federal activity (or inactivity) caused payments to lapse.

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    Kurt,

    The Oregon Territory, once it was wrestled away from indigenous people and the British, became federal land, not Oregon land. The federal government, through the 1859 Oregon Admissions Act, gave to the state government specific sections of land for, among other purposes, universities, public buildings, and for a trust for funding schools, thus adding to an 1841 federal land grant of 500,000 acres. The Act provided for conditions under which the state could purchase land from the federal government, but all remaining lands, unless privately owned, were either to remain under the ownership and jurisdiction of the federal government or were to be given to the new state of Washington. Oregon leaders agreed to this arrangement as a condition of entry into the union. (Oregon Admissions Act (1859), Oregon Blue Book)

    As for O & C lands, their history of these areas dates back to 1866, when the federal government gave Southern Pacific Railroad significant swaths of land so that they could sell it to finance the building of the Oregon and California Railroad. When Southern Pacific lagged in this effort, and in many instances was accused of fraud as it sold larger than allowed tracts of land, a federal government took the land back in 1916 -- it was not given to the state. Because of this, eight Western Oregon counties had in their borders lands that they had planned on being able to tax once the Railroad sold them, but were now off limits. To salve the anger of these counties, in 1937 the federal government agreed to manage the forests with the primary intention of timber production, with a significant portion of the proceeds to be given to the counties. This arrangement lasted for over fifty years, only to change under the Northwest Forestry Plan, which created a series of off-limits reserves within the O & C lands.

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    Oh, and as for Roosevelt, he took what had been lands that Oregonians were expecting the federal government would give away (it had been giving away thousands upon thousands of acres for decades through laws like the Homestead Act, the Mining Act, etc) and said that it would forever remove them for consideration for private ownership. It wasn't a "land grab" but rather a change in federal land management policy. It did something similar in 1934, when it changed the management of grasslands through the Taylor Grazing Act.

    In 1976, the federal government forever ended the possibility of giving away additional federal lands through the Federal Land Policy Management Act. This means that what remains of federal lands in Oregon will always be in the public domain.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Kristin, your position sounds like Federal=public to me. It's not the kind of hair that we should be splitting, if we had good government, in which case I would totally agree with your logic. Unfortunately, I think the "land grab" logic gets validation from the fact that TR's motives don't seem to have been entirely pure.

    From 1870 to 1900 the US made huge economic strides. We can debate the cause, but Republicans, at the time, claimed it was do to tariffs and development of the interior of the continent. Financing of the trans-Siberian and French rail systems flowed from the philosophy and individuals involved here.

    From here conspiracy theory tends to take over, but what's indisputable is that Teddy changed tack. Conspiracies say that it was because the world's dominant power, Britain, was threatened by interior continental development around the world and point to Teddy's use of the Great White Fleet and his shutting down the Canal Project and running an independent candidacy to stop the "old Reps" from returning, as examples of his pandering to global, naval sea power.

    Actually, I don't see why both can't be true. Even if that was the reason, all that development was largely private and the people making money from the trade protections weren't worried about nature. So, he really accomplished what both camps say he did, would be my take. Anyway, it's why you get two kinds of talk on TR. Current administration is a case in point. How different is it that they own the lands than if they were in a developer's hands?

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    I'm presenting the history -- how you interpret it, or your opinion of it, is up to you...

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    Oh, and "public domain" is more of a legal term, rather than a judgement of what the land should be used for...

    I was specifically discussing TR's designation of national parks and forest reserves out of land that those in the West had hoped would be sold or given to them. Regardless of what you thought his motives, he did not take land away from private citizens but rather used federal land in a way that some would have wished he didn't. He did so, many believe, because of the degradation caused by over-mining, over-logging and over-grazing...

  • ws (unverified)
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    LT, SCB, read your comments...I'm thinking about them....thanks, WS.

  • Claire (unverified)
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    Interesting discussion. First a little background--I lived in Eugene/Springfield for almost 20 years working for a public employer and now live in Yamhill County where we farm. Going from a liberal community to a conservative one is interesting and illustrates that not all of semi-urban Oregon or semi-rural Oregon is able to be stereotyped. The best way in help rural Oregon reach its potential is to ensure that there is equal access to infrastructure. For those people who would like to move to rural Oregon, be prepared for expensive access to technology. We live between Salem and McMinnville and the only reliable access to the internet is via satellite at $80 per month. Even that isn't as fast as the cable-based systems but better than dial-up over lines that get eaten by mice or wireless antenna that any baby monitor within 2 miles can bring to a halt. Think about how difficult it might be in the high desert or along the coast.

  • Vicky Carthew (unverified)
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    The name Beaver State has positive connotations to me, of ingenuity, enterprise and industry -- making the most of what nature offers. Having not been to America, let alone Oregon, I have had a quick skim of my encyclopaedia and Wikipedia. It sounds an incredibly interesting place, though of course I haven't got an idea of the character of Oregon culture. But I can certainly see why you would have plenty of tourists and retirees moving there.
    The main impression I have is of a pioneering, rugged people living in clean windswept air. If there is any truth in this, my suggestion for the future path of Oregon is to become the cleanest and greenest place in the world. Your farming organic, your forestry sustainably managed, ditto your fishing, gold, silver and nickel mining innovating environmentally best practices, the giant aquifer under the Cascades kept for yourselves and used with the utmost judiciousness, so that you become the ecological Mecca of the globe, and become rightfully the proudest state in the USA.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    We also have an advantage that no one lives immediately West of us. Lots of green places like the Netherlands have major troubles because places like London, immediately West are not. So, if we invest in making it an ecological Mecca, we have a chance of it staying that way.

    Kristin, I think we're in violent agreement...

  • smith (unverified)
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    I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at http://couponredeemer.com/federalgrants/

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