PORTLAND, Ore. — With all of Oregon placed atop a list of the 10 most endangered scenic places in America, environmentalists warned that a land-use law approved by voters last year could continue to mar the landscape.
The endangered list, released Thursday by Scenic America, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation group, categorized the whole state as endangered, but singled out fast-growing central Oregon and Wallowa Lake in northeastern Oregon.
Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties boast some of the "state’s most beautiful landscapes," while Wallowa Lake is thought to be the "best-preserved glacial moraine lake in North America," according to the list.
"Our state has received this ‘honor’ primarily due to the passage of Measure 7," said Randy Tucker of the conservation watchdog group 1,000 Friends of Oregon at a rain-spattered news conference Thursday overlooking Portland.
The measure, on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, requires governments to pay property owners if laws or regulations reduce property values.
Tucker said if the measure is upheld by the court and goes into effect, "the damage to the distinctive landscapes that make up our state will be serious and irreversible."
Other similarly damaging initiatives have been filed for next year’s election, he said.
"We’re not just talking about natural landscapes like Smith Rock and the Oregon coast," he said. "We’re also talking about urban landscapes."
Scenic America said more than half of all new housing permits in fast-growing Deschutes County already are authorized in areas outside designated urban growth boundaries.
Beth Burczak, president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon, said the fallout from Measure 7 could go beyond landscapes. Social and health programs covered by the state would be "pre-empted by the billions of dollars for individual compensation payments under Measure 7," she said.
The measure would "have a chilling effect on any public efforts to protect our neighborhoods, our environment and our quality of life," she said.
State Rep. Earl Blumenauer said he was not happy about accepting the nomination to the list. The Oregon Democrat helped pass the original land protection act in the Legislature in 1985 and is concerned about Measure 7.
"It would require the public to pay people to observe our land-use laws," Blumenauer said. If the state can’t afford it, the law can be broken, he said.
Scenic America also listed the District of Columbia; the marsh islands of coastal Georgia; Red Rocks scenic road in Sedona, Ariz.; Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island; Coyote Valley, San Jose, Calif.; the St. Croix Valley Scenic Corridor of Minnesota and Wisconsin; the Harpeth River Valley, Tennessee; Virginia’s Lynville Mountain Landscape; and the Woodbury Watershed Forest in Baltimore.
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