Rural Reserves

Image courtesy of Flickr user GeoFX

After watching last night’s preview screening of Food, Inc, the pressing question from those in attendance was, “How can we affect policy change that will help small farmers?” In response, Steve Cohen, of Portland’s Food Policy Council, implored the audience to get involved in setting the city’s urban growth boundary. Here in Portland, we have a incredible bounty of farmlands in close proximity to the urban core, making us unique among cities of our size. Yet none of this would have happened without thoughtful planning and foresight, and the time has come to participate once more in guiding the future of the region’s growth.

As the process was designed, Metro and the tri-county area of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties would re-visit the growth boundary every five years, in order to expand the available land for the next 20 years of projected growth. The unintended consequence of this system was that rural landowners on the fringes of the current boundary were put in a constant state of uncertainty, unsure whether their land would be acquired in the next bulge. Thankfully, in 2007, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that allows for Metro to guide a pro-active process of designating urban and rural reserves eligible for continued protection.

Currently, Metro is in the process of reviewing the urban and rural reserves and needs your input. Farms are a critical resource in our region, comprising the second-largest economy in the state, as well as contributing to the character and quality of our city. The Metro reserves website is the best starting point for learning about the candidate areas, finding public involvement meetings, and sharing your thoughts through the online survey, available through May 7. Another resource for understanding more about the issues is 1000 Friends of Oregon, which offers excellent talking points on the reserve process and suggests ways to get involved in spreading the word about protecting our region’s land-based resources.

The decisions about reserve designations will be made over the next two months, so please help to guarantee our region’s continued food security and to protect the health of our local agricultural economy.

Thanks for sharing