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Press release—Recreational Immunity Safeguarded in Oregon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 11, 2024

CONTACT
Karsyn Kendrick
Conservation Program Manager, Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts
karsyn@oregonlandtrusts.org

Salem, OR—This week, the Oregon legislature voted to close a critical loophole in the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act, safeguarding recreational immunity and ensuring that Oregonians will continue to have access to recreation on both public and private lands. 

Since the passage of the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act in 1995, public and private landowners have been protected via recreational immunity, which provides liability protections for lands open for recreation. However, last year, an Oregon Court of Appeals decision, Fields v. Newport, undermined those protections. 

The Fields v. Newport decision had a sweeping effect on recreation, forcing many municipalities, nonprofits, land trusts, and recreation groups who open their land for recreation to close their trails due to the threat of litigation and liability.

“Coming into the spring and summer, we want to make sure everybody has the ability to recreate, and this is a stopgap measure to actually do that,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski (D – Springfield & Eugene).

“The goal for this bill was to make certain that we have the opportunity for Oregonians and tourists from outside the state to access our recreational areas.” 

Senate Bill 1576 amends the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act, which protects private landowners from lawsuits and liability if someone is injured while recreating on their property. This temporary fix will give legislators time to craft a permanent solution in 2025.

“Protecting Recreational Immunity has a huge impact on land trusts in Oregon, who are dedicated to expanding access to the outdoors for Oregonians,”  said Karsyn Kendrick, Conservation Program Manager at the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. 

“While this is a temporary fix, it is an important step in securing recreation in Oregon on private and public trails. Thank you to all who worked to make this happen and we look forward to seeing you on the trails this summer!” 

The passage of Senate Bill 1576A means that Oregonians will have access to trails once again—including more than 90 land trust properties across the state.

“Greenbelt Land Trust depends on the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act and recreational immunity to enable us to be providers of trail access for all, and we applaud the decision to close this dangerous loophole that was opened through the Newport case,” said Jessica McDonald, Executive Director of Greenbelt Land Trust. 

“We are thrilled that the amendment will continue to make it possible for public and private landowners to make their land available to the public for recreation by providing landowners immunity from liability.”

About the Coalition for Oregon Land Trusts
The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT) serves and strengthens the land trust community in Oregon. At COLT, we build connections and advance policies that help protect our natural world—our water, wildlife and open space—for all people, forever. This work helps our coalition members—31 conservation organizations around the state—do what they do best: protect wildlife and wild places, defend working farms and forests, provide recreation and parks, drive climate solutions and science, champion clean water for all and engage communities to protect our natural world.

Kelsey Kuhnhausen

Kelsey Kuhnhausen

Kelsey is COLT's Communications Manager.

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