It's Your Oregon: Maggie Collins
Little did I know what was in store in January 1973, when I walked into OEC’s SW Water Street office. Judie (Neilson) Hansen was efficiently managing in a small area full of mis-matched furniture. I explained that Oregon Environmental Council sounded like a good place to volunteer because “environmental” was part of its name. I went away from that first encounter with a copy of Senate Bill 100, which I read that night in a toy-cluttered NE Portland living room after my preschoolers were tucked in.
Little did I know what was in store in January, 1973, when I walked into OEC’s SW Water Street office. Judie (Neilson) Hansen was efficiently managing in a small area full of mis-matched furniture. I explained that Oregon Environmental Council sounded like a good place to volunteer because “environmental” was part of its name. I went away from that first encounter with a copy of Senate Bill 100, which I read that night in a toy-cluttered NE Portland living room after my preschoolers were tucked in. I was hooked by the proposal; dealing with preservation of natural resource bases such as agricultural and forest lands through land use planning sounded like just the thing to work on.
While the number of environmental Oregonians or transplants might have been small at that time, the 70’s were ripe for action on many fronts. But we didn’t know we were forming an “environmental movement,” a concept missing from this state. Oregon was a timber/agricultural economy. Income level gaps between a mill-worker and a white-col-lar worker were relatively small. The State’s residents still identified themselves as being part of a statewide community with plenty of porosity between urban and rural living.
Other forces were building. The 1973 Legislature had an influx of young and eager legislators from both parties. The Bottle Bill symbolized environmental action at its best. Certainly, one could not underestimate the influence of public opinion on Governor Tom McCall when it came to protecting the resources and beauty of this state. Urban growth was being noticed.
Martin Davis and I were OEC lobbyists in Salem for the passage of SB 100 (Oregon’s Statewide Land Use Planning Law) over about four months in 1973. It was exciting and easy to access a “citizen legislature” that year. I was truly ignorant about how legislation is enacted, but I knew about process, and I had my vision of this proposed legislation—that was enough. Salem memories include:
- Public hearings in Rm. 32 of the Capital basement.
- Discussions, arguments and varied testimony from timber interests, city and county officials, the League of Women Voters, the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, the Sierra Club, and a lot more. I can see many of these testifiers’ faces to this day: Steve Bauer, Ward Armstrong, Gordon Fultz, Dorothy Anderson, Ron Eber, George Diel, Anne Squier, Bill Moshofsky, Herb Riley, and of course, Martin, who carried most of the OEC messages into the hearing room.
- The endurance required to meet and deal with Senator Ted Hallock, a most intemperate man.
- One of the inscriptions on the Capitol’s facade: A free state is formed and is maintained by the voluntary union of the whole people joined together under the same body of laws for the common welfare and the sharing of benefits justly apportioned.
- Waiting to hear some citizen claim that land use planning was a communist conspiracy direct from Salem and that the State was dictating what we could do with our property.
- Spreading the word—we were always lobbying friendly people from around the State to voice support—to balance the timber guys — even though farming and ranching interests were generally behind the Bill (but you know, the devil is in the details).
SW Water Street was a busy place. Others will have written about the many issues being tackled during those early years, and since OEC was a council of affiliated groups, there was plentiful discussion about where to focus its meager resources. My recollection was that of all the issues in which OEC was active, land use got the least amount of attention, but OEC did not take the issue of Future Growth from scratch; a huge amount of prep work by other groups, including the League of Women Voters and attention from the Governor’s office had preceded the filing of SB 100.
Meanwhile, momentum was growing in [Hearing] Room 32. It would be more than tedious to itemize the many steps in evolving amendments of this unique legislative proposal. Hundreds of people were involved and played important roles. And it started to pay off. With citizen support from all areas of the State, cities and counties wanted, and got, assurance that local comprehensive land use plans would be locally controlled; federal timber and range lands would be exempted from local planning. Anne Squier and I wrote the OEC endorsement of urban growth boundaries, a concept getting attention as a way to save agricultural lands. Strong coastal preservation was being proposed—there was something for everyone!!
The major breakthrough for passage occurred when moderate Republicans started stating support; in the strangest way, this emboldened nascent advocates for things such as wetland preservation. The idea that directing growth and development would be good for Oregon’s future would have died had not negotiations like those described above been accommodated. That and the heady days of 1973 got the job done. I recall Steve Schell saying that passing SB 100 was in the tradition of Oswald West.
The Next Steps
OEC continued as the major environmental representative for the State for another six months. We continued to publish Land Use Oregon with changed content: now there were reports from OEC members who were serving on each of the Statewide Goal Formulation committees (the process that was used to develop Statewide Goals stipulated by SB 100). I was appointed as the OEC representative to the first Statewide Citizen Involvement Advisory Committee. Our group wrote Statewide Goal One: Citizen Involvement.
Now public hearings in Rm. 32 were proposing content and processes for land use planning. Many of the original lobbyists and important citizen activists were still there. But the interests and participation involved at this point included new faces with intriguing ideas on how to make the land use bill work. And opposition opinion was just as strong, now that jurisdictions had to plan; no one wanted “planning from the top.” It was nearly a full-time job to keep track of drafts of Statewide Goals. Committees spent hours parsing sentences. The one person who most stands out in my mind during this period, and who kept this complex process together, was L.B. Day. My favorite vision of L.B., as Chairperson of the Land Conservation and Development Commission, was of him banging that gavel during Salem basement work sessions and hearings.
As environmental legislation, SB 100 was unique in the number and intensity of Oregonians involved in the process. This experience influenced other actions: the University of Oregon developed a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program with special emphasis on what was now known nationwide as “Oregon’s Land Use Planning Program.” 1000 Friends organized as a land use watch-dog and an advocate for resource planning and preservation based on the Statewide Goals. Local citizens in unprecedented numbers involved themselves in developing and adopting local comprehensive land use plans.
I lament that much environmental focus has shifted, as Dr. Chad Box in a lecture at OSU has stated, from natural resource interests to emphasis on personal safety and NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) concerns. It is, however, encouraging to see new signs of cooperation.
For example, the Glaze Forest Restoration Project includes the Forest Service, conservation and logging interests working together (The Oregonian, December 6, 2007).
We abandon individual and group stewardship at our peril. We need a future that recognizes and honors regional environmental concerns, and to which local comprehensive plans, as evolved from those great times in 1973, can and do still speak.