The art of collaboration: working together for conservation

Guest blog post by
Alyson Marchi-Young, Marketing and Communications Strategist, 1000 Friends of Oregon

From left: Gov. Tom McCall and Hector Macpherson, 1973, Photo courtesy of Hector Macpherson’s personal collection

It seems so rare now, Democrats and Republicans working together towards shared conservation goals. But in the 1970s, Oregon was an epicenter of bipartisan cooperation that established important, groundbreaking environmental policy that has shaped our state to this day. Passionate community activists and collaborating lawmakers worked together for years to build the first of its kind legislation establishing Oregon’s statewide planning program.

We enjoy clean air and water, open natural spaces, fresh local foods, and livable urban centers and towns today in part because nearly 50 years ago ordinary people came together to negotiate the balance between urban, rural, and wild places to conserve our lands and create great communities for generations to come.

This balancing act was fomented with the passage of Senate Bill 100 in 1973 – just a few years younger than Oregon Environmental Council and two years before the formal incorporation of 1000 Friends of Oregon.

SB 100 was the culmination of Governor Tom McCall’s vision, championed by Republican Senator and dairy farmer Hector Macpherson, to protect the interests of Oregon “from the grasping wastrels of the land.” Famously articulated by Governor McCall, he goes on: “We must respect another truism – that unlimited and unregulated growth, leads inexorably to a lowered quality of life.”

With strong support from Democratic urban legislators Ted Hallock of Portland and Nancie Fadely of Eugene, a large majority of the legislators agreed.

Before the ink was dry on SB100, around the state, there were activists on the coast fighting the privatization of beaches; environmentalists working to keep our waterways clean; urban planners envisioning cities without cars; foresters looking at new ways of doing business; tribes fighting to preserve their land; wildlife biologists studying species loss; and a social movement afoot that was hungry for change. While each of these groups did work towards their piece of the puzzle, it also made good sense to come together and build something comprehensive and lasting.

With SB 100 as the base, Oregonians created the framework for a coordinated land use system, including rules to address the unique needs of our diverse landscapes and people. Advisory groups were formed to craft 19 statewide Goals for the land use system, ranging from preservation of agricultural land to ensuring enough housing in our cities, from clean water and wetlands to resiliency planning.

What does this all mean for Oregonians today? It means that we have maintained much of our farmland since the 1970s, still in productive use today. It means vibrant farmers markets with fresh, local options. It means healthy working forests you can enjoy. It’s cleaner water and air and access to open spaces. It means connected transit systems and walkable communities. It means diverse housing choices in every community. Our land use system means that Oregon remains…Oregon.

The land use system has been effective for decades, in no small part because of continued cooperation and collaboration between many passionate people and institutions. It’s no accident that the first goal is public participation. This system was put together with a cacophony of voices; it only makes sense that the tradition of collaboration continues.

Since the formation of 1000 Friends of Oregon (1975) to act as the state’s independent land use watchdog, we have had the great opportunity to work closely with Oregon Environmental Council. Our partnership has enhanced environmental policies that protect our valuable natural spaces and make Oregon continually livable. In this spirit, we are so enthusiastic about our partnership to celebrate 50 years of loving Oregon.

Our collaboration to bring about Framian, a monument to Senate Bill 100, is exemplary of the values espoused within the bill itself. When OEC approached 1000 Friends about this special art project, it was an easy decision. Our longstanding partnership to protect Oregon’s special places is celebrated with this unique alliance of institutions and individuals. With the incredible opportunity to engage with the Pacific Northwest College of Arts’ program Science+Art, Framian has become a symbol of the collaborative process that brings diverse perspectives together to share a bigger vision. This piece reflects the passions of our community and of those before us, who envisioned an Oregon that prizes its natural landscapes, supports its people from generation to generation, and welcomes new Oregonians.

It is our promise to Oregonians that 1000 Friends will continue to build bridges and nurture partnerships that deliver meaningful policy in support of conservation. We look forward to another 50 years, side by side with our friends at the Oregon Environmental Council.


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