Grassroots efforts saved 163 acres of Linn County farmland

Earlier this month, the Linn County community successfully advocated for the preservation of 163 acres of prime farmland, saving it from becoming industrial land as part of a land swap proposed by the City of Millersburg. The farmland was proposed for a factory that would make tissues, when there is already sufficient land inside the urban growth boundary for this type of use.

Local farmers testified that the land has been actively farmed by their families for decades and has supported at least 51 different crops over the years. The land currently hosts a sizable hazelnut orchard outside the Millersburg urban growth boundary (UGB). This land is tiled and irrigated, and is an integral part of the area’s commercial agricultural enterprise.

Public efforts are crucial to our work at 1000 Friends and the land use system as a whole. This is why citizen involvement is the first stated goal of our land use program. In this case, efforts by Friends of Linn County, Friends of Family Farmers, and the local farm community ensured that this land remained outside the UGB and will remain farmland, instead of being unnecessarily urbanized to build an industrial tissue factory – forever losing acres of rich soil that feed our state. 

The commissioners noted the large amount of testimony they’d received in opposition to the proposed UGB expansion, ultimately voting 2–1 to deny a land swap proposed by the City of Millersburg. 1000 Friends celebrates the decision, knowing there is already plenty of industrially zoned land available inside the Millersberg UGB. 

In preparing testimony for the hearing, 1000 Friends Staff Attorney Blair Batson worked with local farmers and our partner Friends of Linn County. “We are delighted to see the positive impact of this area’s impressive farm community. They showed up in force to explain the agricultural and economic significance of this land that has been farmed by their families for generations,” says Batson.

Friends of Linn County President Paul Harcombe also celebrated the vote, saying the decision “upholds the spirit of Oregon’s Statewide Land Use Planning Goals that emphasize farmland protection, not to mention citizen involvement in land use decisions. We are grateful for the efforts of the many farmers and local residents who came out in opposition to the application.”

Often, filing a lawsuit is the moment that a land use issue begins to get its due attention. In advocating at the local level, the Millersburg and wider Linn County community prevented the issue from reaching that point – an even more effective and important win.