2015 Oregon Legislative Session

The 2015 Oregon Legislature meets in full session from February 2nd – July 3rd, 2015. The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts is tracking a number of bills that could potentially impact, beneficially or not, the work of our 19 member land trusts. Below are a few of these bills, with some related information and our position if we have one:

Bills we are watching (updated May 27th):

HB 3333:  “Salmon Plate Fix” – specifically states that revenue from Salmon Plates must be used for restoration of native salmon habitat.  This bill addresses an issue that garnered some attention in the press late last year.  OWEB already planned an internal fix, but this bill just codifies it. Here’s a recent article on the bill.

HB 3334:  In an effort to ensure adequate resources for sage grouse habitat conservation to help forestall a potential ESA listing, which would have significant social and economic consequences, this bill attempts to earmark $2 million per year of OWEB funds for sage grouse conservation.  While there is broad consensus around the need for sage grouse conservation,  COLT and the Network of Oregon Watershed Councils (NOWC) provided written testimony at a March 17th hearing before the House Committee On Agriculture and Natural Resources highlighting some concerns with this bill.  OACD – with help from the partnership and substantial OWEB match – has already secured significant federal funding to help districts put conservation programs on the ground in Eastern Oregon.

HB 3367: This would authorize counties to conditionally approve the establishment of recreational trails on land zoned for Exclusive Farm Use (EFU). Currently, recreational trails are not specified as an outright allowed use. The measure would clarify through statue that trails on EFU may require a conditional use permit subject to review. At a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on May 20th, DLCD submitted testimony that, in part, stated, “This bill would make trails that are transportation facilities an allowed use subject to review and approval by counties in Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zones….However, such trails are already an allowed use subject to … review…. Therefore, the bill would create no change to the current land use review criteria or process required by law.” COLT does not have a position on this bill.

SB 194:  “Education Funding Protection Act” – would allow counties to place limits on lands set aside for conservation or restoration purposes.  A hearing was held March 17th before the Senate Committee On Finance and Revenue. COLT, NOWC, and the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) provided joint testimony opposing this bill.

SB 439: This would establish an Outdoor Education Account for purpose of providing outdoor school programs. It appropriates moneys from General Fund to Oregon Department of Administrative Services for deposit in account. Declares emergency, effective July 1, 2015.

SB 544:  This bill would eliminate the current limitation on liability for landowners for damages resulting from certain fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects and watershed or stream restoration or enhancement programs.  The bill is with the Senate Committee On Environment and Natural Resources, though no hearings have been scheduled as of now.

SB 204 & 205:  These are initiatives sponsored by the Governor’s Office, which have a nexus with OWEB’s programs and the conservation of working lands.  No hearings have been scheduled, and the details of these bills are still in process.  Modifications may come from the Governor’s office, but details at the moment are not available. COLT is tracking these bills daily.

SB 5540 & 5541: Bills to fund the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for Fiscal Year 2015-17. At a public hearing on March 9th before the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources, COLT, NOWC, and OACD submitted public testimony in support of the proposed budget. McKenzie River Trust and the Greenbelt Land Trust also provided public testimony in support.