Douglas County legal decision protects big game habitat, prime forestland and farmland

In a win by 1000 Friends — representing Friends of Douglas County — for residents of Douglas County, the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) remanded a decision by the Douglas County Commission to essentially create a new type of zone through an ordinance that would allow for more development in areas of fire risk, big game habitat, and farm and forestland. 

If the decision was not remanded, any farm or forestland within the 5,134 acres of Douglas County could have been affected if an exemption was allowed. 

LUBA determined that Douglas County’s new ordinance would violate statewide land use goal 5: Natural Resources, Scenic and Historic Areas, and Open Spaces. The ordinance not only disregarded protections for big game habitat but also created conflicts in the Douglas County comprehensive plan regarding protections of forestland by allowing more forest template dwellings, which would put more people in the wildland-urban interface and thus increase fire risk.

“The land use review process in Douglas County seeks to identify, minimize, and mitigate impacts to wildlife and the various tiers of wildlife habitat” - Douglas County comprehensive plan

It is especially important to mitigate the chances of fires as Oregon has faced devastating wildfire seasons in the past few years, and the outlook for future wildfire seasons mirrors the same severity.

 

Elk group (3)
Elk and deer are some of the big game that the Douglas County comprehensive plan requires protection of.

“Friends of Douglas County is grateful for the legal assistance provided by 1000 Friends that resulted in this LUBA remand. Douglas County will once again be forced to consider the protections provided by the statewide goals that limit development on farm and forest land” - Shelley Wetherell, Friends of Douglas County

What happens next: Although the remand is a win for the land use planning system, the Douglas County Commission can go back to the drawing board and try again. We will be monitoring the situation as it develops.

 

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