Author: karla kay edwards

Karla discusses Alberta's Bill 36 on CAEPLA Connections in Canada – Part 2

Click here for Part 1

On July 2, 2011, Karla continued discussion with CAEPLA CONNECTIONS LANDOWNER TALK RADIO about an Alberta land use law similar to one instituted in Oregon.

From the CAEPLA website…

This week on CAEPLA Connections Landowner Talk Radio, Keith Wilson, Karla Kay Edwards, and Kevin Avram discuss the impact of Bill 36-like legislation in Oregon. Bill 36 is an Alberta law that is going to change Alberta in a way that few people realize. In many instances, it is also going to affect property values in ways that few people have thought about. The Bill is the Stelmach government’s central planning land use law.

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Karla discusses Alberta's Bill 36 on CAEPLA Connections in Canada – Part 1

Click here for part 2

On June 25, 2011, Karla visited with CAEPLA CONNECTIONS LANDOWNER TALK RADIO about an Alberta land use law similar to one instituted in Oregon.

From the CAEPLA website…

When Alberta Cabinet Minister Mel Knight was asked if there was any democratic jurisdiction anywhere, that had implemented the kind of land use laws and central planning embodied in Alberta’s Bill 36, he responded by saying, “Yes, in Oregon.” And Oregon did it 40 years ago! Since then, other than Alberta, no one has copied Oregon’s way of doing things, and with good reason. It’s been a disaster for property rights.

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An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

Your recognition of the importance of rural America is appreciated, but it appears shallow thus far in your presidency. The announcement of the establishment of the White House Rural Council has lofty goals, but actions speak louder than words. At this point your administration’s actions have done little to relieve the economic woes of rural communities, especially in Oregon.

The executive order establishing the Council lists 25 agencies and other federal government entities that will participate under the leadership of the Secretary of Agriculture to “better coordinate Federal programs and maximize the impacts of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and quality of life….” My question is, whose quality of life and economic prosperity? The only mention of economic opportunity in the order pertains to “…energy development, outdoor recreation, and other conservation related activities.”

Here in Oregon, we have lived with this utopian concept of economic development for more than twenty years. If you were to ask folks who actually live in rural communities throughout Oregon, you would be informed overwhelmingly that the results of this new conservation economy are dismal at best. In fact, statistics show that the poverty rate in rural Oregon has increased from 12% in 1979 to 17.2% today.

Your administration has touted the billions of dollars that have been spent on pet projects throughout the country like broadband and renewable energy. Why not allow communities to identify projects that will best fit their needs locally? Better yet, in these financially strained times, let’s consider removing bureaucratic roadblocks to prosperity and allow the free market to determine the viability of industries, instead of the federal government investing billions of dollars picking the economic winners and losers.

Ethanol is one of the best examples of the federal government picking winners and losers. Corn growers definitely have benefited from ethanol subsidies, but livestock growers have seen the costs of their feedstuffs skyrocket.

There are also great examples of how public-private partnerships can be successful without federal government funding and bureaucracy. Just look at Powell, Wyoming, which successfully created a community based broadband network without any of the $7.2 billion being offered by the federal government to subsidize broadband development.

A critical and often forgotten factor in stimulating America’s rural economy is removing the burdensome regulations placed on communities and businesses throughout the country. Your administration has introduced a litany of rules that only continue to increase the bureaucratic burden on businesses of all sizes and has offered little to no relief or flexibility to businesses trying to meet often over-reaching regulations.

Durkee, Oregon is just one rural community caught in the cross hairs of EPA regulations. The town’s largest employer, Ash Grove Cement (116 employees), is facing possible closure despite investing $20 million in retrofits to control airborne mercury emissions. EPA has proposed new airborne emission standards for mercury that are below the natural background levels and beyond levels which technology can economically address in this area. Without an exception to the proposed rule, the business will have to shut down, eliminating a significant number of full-time family wage jobs. There are numerous other examples of egregious, overly restrictive regulations forced upon rural communities by a multitude of federal agencies which greatly diminish market opportunities for businesses.

Last, but most important to Oregon and to the stabilization of our rural economy, 53 percent of our land is owned by the federal government. The federal government has shifted its land management philosophy from sustainable active management of renewable natural resources to a passive management regimen that has cost our communities thousands of full-time living wage jobs and greatly increased the vulnerability of our forests to disease, pest infestations and devastating wildfires. The negative impacts of federal management decisions (or the lack thereof) on our renewable resources have been destructive to both the environment and rural communities.

Whether it is the livestock industry struggling to meet the impossible demands of federal grazing leases, or lumber mills trying to source enough timber to make up for the lost volume no longer coming from the federal forests — all of Oregon has been impacted. In fact, 31 out of 36 counties in Oregon receive funds from the federal welfare program for counties known as the Rural Secure Schools Act. These funds are provided to counties in a dismal attempt to offset the economic impact on county government (not individuals or businesses) due to the lack of management and bureaucratic entanglement of federal lands in Oregon. Local governments, business and citizens alike would prefer to be self-sufficient, but that is unlikely to happen unless the federal government liquidates its land holdings or begins to actively manage its natural resource assets.

While facing this recession, there is no better time for the federal government to stop frivolously spending money choosing economic winners and losers and to begin looking at how it could remove regulatory burdens that would free citizens and businesses to rethink free market opportunities and invest in their own future.

Daniel Kemmis wrote in This Sovereign Land: “…[P]eople who live and work, raise their families and build their communities, on a particular landscape cannot be and will never be persuaded by any amount of purely legal reasoning that people who have no such dependence on or knowledge of those landscapes should have an equal say in their governance.” Rural communities like Burns or Enterprise, Oregon would welcome the opportunity to host a listening session and tour for the White House Rural Council to reveal opportunities which would allow them to control their own destiny and once again flourish.

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Karla talks Attack of the 50ft Environmentalist on I Spy on Salem

On the June 4, 2011 episode of I Spy on Salem, Karla joins the show to examine Oregon’s lack of timber harvesting.  You can listen to her appearance on the right.  Below is the information from the show:

Listen to Karla Kay Edwards, Rural Policy and Land Use for Cascade Policy Institute, and Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager for Associated Oregon Loggers discuss (what we titled our show) The Attack of the 50-foot Environmentalist. Find out what’s really going on with environmental groups, the industry it’s become, and if logging can be revived.

I Spy on Salem is aired from 11:00 to noon on KYKN 1430 in Salem.  If you’re outside of the Salem listening area you can listen live at  Busy Saturday, not a problem because after the show is aired we upload it to our so you can listen at your convenience.


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Can the Bureaucratic Knot Be Untangled?

Several well-written articles recently have called for Oregon to once again capitalize on our amazing renewable natural resources. Oregon State Senator David Nelson wrote in an Oregonian editorial, “This state has every natural advantage over its neighboring competitors, and a pioneering and ingenious people who know how to work hard and capitalize on opportunity.” But the likelihood of Oregon ever being able to once again use our natural resources as an economic competitive advantage is dependent on our ability to untangle the bureaucratic and legal knots present at every level of government. This will have to be done before we lose our remaining infrastructure and practical experience necessary to once again make them an economic stalwart in our state. With such a matted mess, how and where do we begin?

The snarl of bureaucratic strings is the result of 50 years of methodical actions by environmentalists to tie up any opportunities to create an economic foundation based on renewable resources. Year after year we have watched as new environmental regulations have been implemented at both the federal and the state levels. These strings have been knitted into a paralyzing process that essentially makes it impossible to craft management decisions affecting our public lands. This inevitably forces critical management decisions to be made by the judicial system which can look only at the individual legal knot that has been challenged, not at the impact to renewable resources as a whole. It is this purposely created bureaucratic knot that is strangling our resources and our rural communities.

With more than 60% of Oregon’s forestland owned by the federal government, the first step to unraveling this knot must be to prevent more land from being acquired by federal government agencies, including so-called “gifts.” If federal agencies wish to exchange or acquire additional lands, they should be required to identify equal acreage within Oregon to be liquidated. Consolidation of federal lands should only be allowed to move forward if the counties involved agree to the land exchange. Gifts of land to the federal government also should be handled in much the same manner. The first step to accomplishing this would be for the Oregon legislature to amend ORS 272.040 and ORS 272.050, so that forestland acquired by the federal government must receive both state and county government approval.

Focus must be placed on what seems to be the never-ending federal planning conundrum. The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management now appear to have more staff dedicated to forest planning than they have active foresters. This cultural shift from active forest management to paper pushing is disheartening when you observe the dismal condition many of our federal forests are in. There was slight optimism within the forest industry and rural communities before the New Federal Planning rule was released in February 2011, but the new rule as proposed simply replaces one top-heavy bureaucratic process with another of equal complexity. A streamlined system must be put into place so that active management can restore forest health and fire resiliency of our federal forests before we reach the point of no return. This cannot be achieved with passive management and a few scattered thinning projects. Robust active forest management plans can create the healthy forest ecosystem we all envision.

Our federal forests cannot afford to be caught in regulatory and bureaucratic purgatory any longer. The legal and political wrangling with forest plans―like the on again, off again Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR)―move us no closer to accomplishing either side’s objectives. Solutions lie within a combination of all the sciences: environmental, political and social. And most importantly, deference must be given to our state and local communities to develop plans that can truly begin to untangle the bureaucratic mess the federal government has made of our federal forests.

In 1929 Herbert Hoover said: “Our western states have long since passed from their swaddling clothes and are today more competent to manage much more of these affairs than is the Federal Government. Moreover, we must seek every opportunity to retard the expansion of Federal bureaucracy and to place our communities in control of their own destinies….The Federal Government is incapable of adequate administration of matters which require so large a matter of local understanding.”

If only the federal government had heeded that message when it was delivered, perhaps our federal forests would be in better shape today. It was good advice then and is good advice now. We must demand the opportunity to control our federal forests locally, before the massive bureaucratic knot can never be untangled.

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Testimony in Favor of HB 3477: Privatizing State Parks Operations

At the May 24th House General Government and Consumer Protection Committee, Karla Kay Edwards testified in favor of HB 3477. HB 3477 would create a pilot program to contract with private companies to perform State Park operations and maintenance.

Click here to listen to her testimony. Karla Kay Edwards’ testimony begins at 1:36.

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Rural Oregon Is Tired of Being Ignored

A statistic commonly used to highlight the economic hardship Oregonians bear is that Oregonians on average earn 91 cents to every dollar of average earned income nationwide. But that story is even more dramatic for rural Oregonians, who earn a mere 75 cents on the dollar when compared to personal income nationally. Yet, the Oregon legislature has done nothing significant to begin to change this dire situation, despite the fact that bills have been introduced that could help rural economies.


The few economic stimulus bills that have worked their way through the system are quite limited and will benefit urban areas far more than rural areas. Bills that could have an immediate and direct benefit to rural areas have been essentially ignored, like bills to allow more water withdrawal from the Columbia River, better management of our state forests, or a pilot project to privatize some management functions of our state parks. Instead of moving these important ideas forward, we have seen the persistent movement of ideas which continue to handicap already depressed economies, like increasing marine reserves or establishing additional unnecessary government imposed natural resource protection programs.


Rural Oregon is tired of either being completely ignored by the legislature or told that eco-tourism is the beacon of hope and we should be thrilled with the seasonal minimum wage jobs that have replaced living wage jobs once provided by a thriving renewable natural resource industry.


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Karla Testifies on HB 3290 to Allow More Land Use Options for Farmers

On May 10, Karla Kay Edwards testified before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on HB 3290.

Click here to listen to her testify. Karla’s testimony starts at 45:29.

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Poison Pills vs. Gun Rights

Three common sense firearms bills passed the House of the Oregon Legislature and are now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, they are not only in jeopardy, but there is a possibility they will be amended with “poison pills.”


The three bills address very different, yet important, issues. The first makes Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL) not subject to public records laws except under specific circumstances; the second allows reciprocity to out of state CHL holders; and the third provides a legal means to carry a firearm on a motorcycle, snowmobile or ATV.


During recent Senate hearings on these bills, the public was asked to testify on concepts that were not in writing, yet were under consideration as amendments to the bills. One concept was simply stated as “guns on public school grounds.” Another was “access to firearms for persons suffering from mental health issues.” The concepts were not defined or thought out. They are broad, sweeping issues that in no way pertained to the bills under consideration. Currently, these bills have bipartisan support and likely would pass the Senate in their current form. But if they are amended to include any of these concepts, the bills may suffer a quick death even though they address important issues that affect our 2nd Amendment rights.


The “poison pill” tactic isn’t new in politics, but it is cowardly. If anti-gun activists have issues they want addressed, they should introduce a bill and go through a legitimate public process, not hide behind political antics.



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Improving Citizen Access to the Oregon Legislature

Are Oregon citizens able to engage with the legislature in a meaningful way? The flurry of bills and amendments can be overwhelming for a professional lobbyist, so it is easy to understand why a citizen or group of volunteer citizens want to throw up their hands.


Tracking a bill in the legislature would seem to be relatively easy with access to the internet. But, as many folks are finding out, it isn’t quite that easy. Once a hearing is scheduled for a bill, a person may have to commute hundreds of miles to Salem to testify. Written testimony can and should be provided on a bill, but actually being present seems to give more deference to an argument. Then, amendments often have been added to the bill that weren’t available on the web, and a citizen’s comments might no longer be pertinent. In fact, with cutoffs approaching, committee members often haven’t even seen amendments before they arrive at the hearing.


Many new citizen activist groups are recognizing that for them to be effective at the legislature, they must have someone at the Capitol on a daily basis monitoring activities. Even then, it is difficult to be effective. Small unofficial workgroups of lobbyists may be working on new language for bills that you may or may not be invited to participate in. This can result in amendments being introduced as “compromise language,” even though interested private citizens never saw the language.


The Oregon legislature could be more accessible to the average citizen. Here are few ideas that could make great strides in that direction:


  • Establish video conference areas around the state for citizens to provide testimony. This is currently being done by the Redistricting Committee, so it is possible. Facilities with this technology already exist at most college facilities throughout the state, so the infrastructure need would be limited.
  • Require all amendments to be posted electronically 24 hours before they can be considered in a work session, and the work session must open a public hearing for comments on those amendments.
  • The number of bills a legislator can introduce should be further limited to three, as well as those introduced on behalf of agencies. However, this has to be well thought-out. The last thing that should be encouraged is large omnibus bills with very general relating clauses.


These changes won’t eliminate the power of professional lobbyists, but they would begin to create a more accessible process for citizens. As legislators contemplate rules by which to conduct business at the beginning of each session, they not only should consider how to make the session most productive for the body, but also how to make their process more conducive to citizen participation.


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