Thank you for inviting me to be here today. I am so pleased to share in this wonderful anniversary celebration of a great moment in our history. As I think we all agree, the Beach Bill is more than just a piece of legislation – it is a fundamental part of what makes Oregon a place we love to call home.
I am reminded today of the Oregon Tourism Commission’s official state slogan, which is “Oregon: things look different here.” It has always struck me as the perfect phrase for Oregon, since it applies as much to the way we run our state as it does to our beautiful scenery.
Maybe it’s our pioneer heritage; maybe it’s all those rainy days that give us extra time to sit inside and cook up new ideas; maybe it’s something in the water. But whatever it is, Oregon is just plain different.
The Beach Bill is obviously a great example, as are the Bottle Bill, Land-use Planning and Vote-by-Mail. As Governor McCall said: “If Oregon can do it, other people try it” – and it’s true.
I know John will spend some time a little later this afternoon talking more specifically about the history and the legacy of Governor McCall’s landmark initiative – so I’d like to zoom out a little bit and look at the bigger picture, at how the Beach Bill fits into the character of Oregon as we know it today and into the Oregon we envision for the future.
I have to tell you – and I think John will know what I’m talking about when I say this – I am a water guy. There is nothing I love better than the view of the rugged Oregon coast from my home down in Bandon. And the highlight of every summer for as long as I can remember has been my annual raft trip down the Rogue River.
For me, these are the things that get to the heart of what Oregon is all about: the wild rapids, the long stretches of pristine shore, the salmon swimming beneath the ripples and the families playing in the sand.
My love for the water carries with it a tremendous sense of responsibility, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. We all know that our oceans and rivers face pressures that increase, not only generation by generation, but literally day by day. We know that we cannot stand idly by if we want our children and grandchildren to inherit the Oregon beaches we love today.
That sense of responsibility, to our natural resources and to our future generations, has guided much of my career in public service. The Beach Bill was a tremendous step toward fulfilling that responsibility – but it was very clearly only a first step.
Ultimately, guaranteeing the public’s access to the state’s beaches will become meaningless unless we preserve the coastal terrain above the shore and the marine life beyond it.
While I was in the State Senate, taking the next steps to further the Beach Bill legacy was one of my central priorities. As anyone who’s served in the legislature will tell you, you win some, you lose some – and although I think we have seen some progress in the past decade and a half, there are miles still to go.
In 1989, I drafted and sponsored the Oregon Ocean Plan, which has successfully prevented offshore oil and gas drilling on our beautiful coast and developed a coordinated statewide planning effort for the ocean.
My hope was that the land-use planning movement that was beginning to take hold around our rivers and urban areas would extend to our oceans and shores.
We’re headed in the right direction, thanks to the very dedicated people all over the state – and in this room – who have held onto that vision and kept this effort moving forward.
The Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council is currently finalizing a set of recommendations for the Governor on marine reserves and marine protected areas.
The idea behind marine reserves is to involve communities statewide in identifying special places in our oceans, places that are important because they are nurseries for a specific species, because they are significant ecologically or because they are important from a recreational standpoint.
In 1998, Voters passed Measure 66, allowing for land acquisition for parks, open space, and habitat and to support salmon recovery efforts. The recent acquisitions of beautiful coastal parks at Whalen Island in Pacific City, Sisters Rock in Curry County, and Cape Sebastian, near Gold Beach, are all examples of the promise of this money.
There have also been some successful local efforts to protect special marine places, by purchasing them through State Parks or securing development rights.
But I said this while I was in the Legislature, and I’ll say it again today: we simply cannot secure the future of Oregon’s Coast through piecemeal, patchwork efforts.
One of Governor McCall’s more famous quotes comes from his opening address to the 1973 legislature, advocating for statewide land-use planning. He said, and I quote:
“There is a shameless threat to our environment and to the whole quality of life - unfettered despoiling of the land. Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal 'condomania,' and the ravenous rampage of suburbia in the Willamette Valley all threaten to mock Oregon's status as the environmental model for the nation. We are dismayed that we have not stopped misuse of the land, our most valuable finite natural resource.”
He argued that Oregon could not effectively tackle the looming problem of urban sprawl unless every player was brought to the table. He wisely saw that the only way to create a plan for a future we can all live with is to involve every city and county, to intertwine urban and environmental interests, to look at the state as a whole.
Only then can we create what Governor Kitzhaber has called, thirty years later – quote - “a society where economic prosperity, community livability and environmental stewardship are interdependent and synergistic -- not separate and in conflict.”
That is exactly the challenge that faces us now as we look to protect Oregon’s coast. The problem of “coastal ania” is still as relevant in Governor Kitzhaber’s era as it was in Governor McCall’s.
And without a coordinated vision of what we want the future of the whole coast to look like, we will likely not get a future we’ll like to look at.
Together, as a state, we need to find ways to adequately protect the natural shoreline we all want to maintain. Together, we need to identify sites to purchase if we are to create a different future.
Together, we must balance economic issues with environmental ones, industry with conservation. And we must look at the coast as a whole: beach and uplands and ocean all inseparable parts of a functioning ecosystem.
The good news is that we currently face some real opportunities to move forward in the critical task ahead of us.
With the help of groups such as OSCC, coastal planners, and watershed councils, we can do pro-active work to identify key places for habitat, open space, and parks on the coast.
We can create an integrated public acquisition plan involving state investments through Oregon State Parks and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Federal Land and Water Conservation Funds, and private conservancy efforts to protect the last of the best.
There are also opportunities for citizens to provide input into the planning effort State Parks has just begun for the management of Oregon’s 200 miles of sandy beaches and for protection of the western snowy plover.
This planning effort will help determine what types of activities and what intensity of uses are appropriate, and it will be an opportunity for citizens to participate in a broad dialogue about how we can maintain our pristine beaches, rich in natural features and wildlife.
The bottom line is that it’s time for the next step. As I think back over my remarks today, I realize that I’ve either quoted Governor Tom McCall or mentioned his name at least three or four times in the last twenty minutes. Indeed, he was one of Oregon’s greatest leaders and he left us an incredible legacy.
But I fear that there are some in our state who would just rest on those laurels, who would point to the policies he helped enact thirty or forty years ago as proof that the work has already been done.
You and I and Governor Kitzhaber all know differently – we know that we’ve only just begun. The purpose of our gathering today is to celebrate the anniversary of the Beach Bill – and I have to tell you: I think the best way to celebrate it is to redouble our commitment to preserving Oregon’s beaches.
After all, to quote McCall just one last time, “heroes are not statues framed against a red sky; they are people who say: ‘this is my community and it’s my responsibility to make it better.”
Thank you very much – and it is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to a man who should also be included in the list of Oregon’s greatest leaders, Governor John Kitzhaber.