In an effort to strengthen environmental engagement in theory and practice we have been researching and working alongside Healthy Democracy a non-governmental organization (NGO). This NGO hosts conversations that aim to build trust between citizens and government and empower citizens’ voices in policy decision making. They encourage diverse opinions in these conversations (called citizen juries) as well as provide financial resources and services to those who participate in one project called the Citizens Initiative Review (CIR). They also host a retreat called Community Oregon in which they host conversations and lectures from people in urban and rural areas. All of their programs center around the notion of environmental engagement as they provide a place and resource for people to discuss their stake in political issues or measures and have it represented during the policy decision making process. For this engagement, we focus on defining what the issue is we’re facing or hoping to conquer. This project proposal aims to empower voices in rural Oregon in environmental legislation and bridge the gap between polarized political beliefs between Oregonians.
The Mail Tribune details the rural perspective as “They see urban lawmakers as forcing progressive policies on them, rather than listening to the needs of their communities (Withycombe Claire, and Wieber Aubrey, 2019).” As cities began to grow in density so did the overwhelming radical political ideology that contrasts to the more conservative rural areas. Environmental issues such as the emission cap and other climate policies pose a threat to the already declining industries in rural Oregon. Conservation policies have impacted the Rural communities industry such as logging (Collin, Robert. 2006). This pinpoints the central issue of environmental regulation related to forest conservation, which our project aims to ratify through engagement. The logging industry is important to many rural Oregonians, but the increased radical legislation to conserve old-growth forests and forest biodiversity have restained Oregonians’ abilities to earn a living in the logging industry. Conservation of forest and forest wildlife is important, but so are the lives and voices of rural communities. Issues of this concern are growing as land policy and Oregon Land goals continue to progress. Forest conservation and land management issues increase as urbanization continues and Rural communities are overlooked. Engagement is about the inclusivity of stakeholders including those who have differing stakes into issues such as forest/ land conservation.
We believe that with the resources and effectiveness of the success of previous engagement projects from Healthy Democracy that rural and urban communities can converse about issues that have previously divided rural and urban Oregonians. This lack of communication and misunderstanding is the key issue in Oregon’s efficiency to move forward with environmental regulation and we believe that working alongside Healthy Democracy this gap can be bridged with engagement practices through diverse multi-party discussions. As increasing tensions between these political groups endure, we feel these groups have an urgency to communicate their experience and interests in topics relating to environmental issues. Urban and rural communities rely on different aspects of the industry which is relevant and discussed in-depth in the Who of environmental engagement.
Collin, Robert W. 2006. “ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN OREGON: IT’S THE LAW.” ENVIRONMENTAL LAW 38: 43.
Kline, Jeffrey D. 2005. “Forest and Farmland Conservation Effects of Oregon’s (USA) Land-Use Planning Program.” Environmental Management 35 (4): 368–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-004-0054-5.
Withycombe Claire, and Wieber Aubrey, Oregon Capital. 2019. “Oregon’s Rural/Urban Divide Persists.” Mail Tribune. August 5, 2019. https://mailtribune.com/news/state-news/oregons-ruralurban-divide-persists.