For Immediate Release: May 18, 2009
Sierra Club Endorses Destination Resort Reform Legislation
Destination resort reform is still less than certain as the 2009 legislative session enters its final weeks. One bill that will decide much about the future landscape and natural resources of Oregon has just been endorsed by the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club, which represents 20,000 conservation-minded Oregonians.
HB 2227, a statewide destination resort reform bill, has passed the House and is awaiting action by the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee. Despite broad local support for more rigorous standards and enforcement of resort rules, the legislature’s Central Oregon delegation is opposing HB 2227. Representatives Judy Stiegler and Gene Whisnant voted no on the measure, and Sen. Chris Telfer has expressed opposition. And Alan Unger, representing the Deschutes County Commission, also submitted testimony opposing the bill.
“The statewide destination resort reforms contained in HB 2227 are essential and should be brought to the full legislature for a vote,” says Juniper Group Sierra Club member Merry Ann Moore. “It will help assure that future resorts are built on the model of Central Oregon’s Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch, which are genuine visitor-serving facilities, instead of the Pronghorn model which is really a gated luxury golf community for second home owners.”
HB 2227 gives career land use experts at the Land Conservation and Development Commission the time and authority to examine and enact sensible resort reforms. It also protects Oregon’s economy and jobs, by preserving the waterways and landscapes that draw thousands of visitors, stimulate local economies, provide limitless enjoyment for residents, provide critical wildlife habitat, and serve as vital fish nurseries.
An ODFW study found that in Deschutes County in 2008, $20 million was spent on travel-generated expenditures for fishing, $6.7 million for hunting, and $42.8 million for wildlife viewing, for a total of $69.5 million. This includes spending on fuel, lodging, groceries, meals, retail purchases and other travel expenses. In comparison, the resort lobby calculates $28.7 million in tax revenue for all Deschutes County resorts COMBINED (Sunriver, Caldera Springs, Black Butte Ranch, Eagle Crest, and Pronghorn) in 2006. And this figure does not consider the hefty infrastructure costs (road improvements, utilities, emergency services) that resort development means for county taxpayers.
HB 2227 also protects farmland from development pressure by putting lands served by irrigation districts off-limits to resorts. This is important for insulating farm lands from development pressure, and assuring there is adequate water to serve existing farm uses. Swalley Irrigation District supports this part of the bill because it will prevent the water rights from irrigated lands being transferred to developers, which takes farmland out of production and forces the burden of district costs on the remaining farmers. These costs rise dramatically, since the district must pipe open rural canals at a cost of $1 million per mile when development happens adjacent to farms. (Developers aren’t required to pay for these costs.)
“Oregon needs to get back to the principles of smart growth and building within urban growth boundaries,” notes Ivan Maluski, Conservation Program coordinator for Sierra Club Oregon. “At a time when our country is beginning to recognize the need to live more sustainably, reduce carbon footprints by driving less, eat local foods, restore endangered fish, protect habitat, and plan for expected global warming impacts such as water shortages, we need to rethink resort policies. HB 2227 is a good step in this direction.”