Our Legislative Priorities
We’re gearing up for the 2024 Legislative Short Session and are excited to share our 2024 Policy Priorities for the land trust and conservation community. This short session, we are focused on policies and programs that sustain and increase funding for land conservation, through new and existing sources.
The 2024 Legislative Session is a short session and will run for 35 days, from February 5 to March 10. Short sessions are focused on bipartisan legislation & unfinished business from the long session. Usually, lawmakers will work on budget tweaks to rebalance state budgets.
Here’s what we’re focused on these next few months.
Our Top Oregon Priorities
In state policy issues, COLT represents the interests of land trusts and works to advance conservation in Oregon. COLT’s top legislative priority is securing funding for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program—a program to help agricultural and conservation groups to protect farm and ranch land, keep it in production, and enhance its natural resource values. The remainder of our work will focus on defending land trust programs & policies, and engaging in agency rulemaking to represent land trust priorities & interests.
Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (OAHP)
Despite its broad and bipartisan support, OAHP did not receive additional grant funding in 2023, jeopardizing $7.2 million in federal matching funds for working lands conservation. COLT, along with a broad coalition of conservation and agriculture groups, are supporting HB 4060 this session. HB 4060 is a bill from the House Committee on Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources & Water to fund OAHP that requests:
- $800,000 for administration of the OAHP grant fund
- $10 million in general funds for grants
OAHP has already had an incredible impact in our state in just one round of grant funding. Last year, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) approved grants for the first $5 million invested in 2022, permanently protecting 12,480 acres of farm and ranch lands across Oregon!
Recreational Immunity Protections
As of 2023, there were 90 land trust properties open for public use in Oregon. Under the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act, public and private landowners are protected via recreational immunity so the public can enjoy recreation on their lands and the landowner can avoid litigation or liability from that public use.
Last year, an Oregon Court of Appeals decision undermined those protections, potentially opening land trusts up to costly litigation or increased liability insurance premiums.
To ensure that all Oregonians can safely recreate & continue to do so on public and private land, we are working this session to amend the Public Use of Lands Act to restore recreational immunity protections for land trusts with properties open for public enjoyment.
Wildlife Omnibus Package
COLT is supporting a wildlife omnibus package this session (Rep. Helm), which would provide funding and updates for wildlife disease programs, the Invasive Species Council, wildlife coexistence programs, and wildlife corridors.
Our Top Federal Policy Priorities
Forest Legacy Program
The Forest Legacy program protects our iconic forest landscapes from fragmentation and conversion, providing critical habitat for wildlife, offering recreation for people, supporting local economies, protecting community drinking water, and enhancing our resilience to climate change.
This program received an additional $700 million through the Inflation Reduction Act, and COLT will work at the federal level to improve and enhance the Forest Legacy Program and bring additional funds to protect iconic Oregon landscapes.
2023 Farm Bill
Although Farm Bill negotiations have stalled as Congress works to pass a federal budget, COLT is advocating for the following Farm Bill priorities:
- Increased funding for ACEP-ALE & RCPP, improved regulations and guidance, and state capacity to increase Oregon’s funding allocation.
- National efforts to ensure that Buy-Protect-Sell (BPS) transactions can be executed to help improve land access for beginning farmers.
- Support national efforts to include the Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP) in the Conservation Title of the 2023 Farm Bill, with mandatory funding.
COLT submits appropriations requests on behalf of land trust priorities each year during the federal budget cycle. This year, we are supporting:
- No rescission of prior unobligated Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding in FY24 Appropriations.
- Continued funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund for FY25.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a bipartisan effort that would provide $1.3B for state and $97.5M for Tribes to protect and conserve non-game species.
This funding is crucial for addressing endangered species conservation across Oregon, and would provide a much-needed infusion of dollars for fish and wildlife agencies throughout the country.
COLT will be sharing out regular updates and intel as the legislative session continues, but we need you in our corner during this session!
Here’s how you can get involved:
- For the legislative short session, we are returning with a $10.8 million request for OAHP, working with the House Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources and Water Committee. And we need your help! Contact Your State Legislator & Tell Them to Fund OAHP in the Short Session
- Sign up for our e-news to receive biweekly legislative wrap-ups as well as regular conservation news, jobs, and grant opportunities.
- Sign up for our Action Alert email list to receive in-depth session readouts and opportunities for advocacy action.
Questions? Reach out to me at email@example.com!