The Come-From-Behind Metolius Victory | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Come-From-Behind Metolius Victory

The Metolius Basin protection bill arose from the dead last week, and everybody in Oregon who cares about the irreplaceable treasure that is the Metolius

The Metolius Basin protection bill arose from the dead last week, and everybody in Oregon who cares about the irreplaceable treasure that is the Metolius River should give thanks for its resurrection.

The bill, HB 3298, designates the Metolius Basin and an adjacent three-mile buffer zone as an "Area of Critical Statewide Concern," protecting it from major development - including two destination resorts that had been proposed there.

A week ago HB 3298 was all but buried after it failed to gain the necessary majority of votes in the Oregon House. In a tactical move its supporters "put it on the table," delaying further action in the hope of switching over at least one of the five Democrats who had voted against it.

It worked. On Monday, June 22, the bill was brought to the floor again. This time Rep. Larry Galizio of Tigard changed his mind, and the measure passed by a vote of 31-28.

After the vote, Galizio said he switched because of a persuasive phone call from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and, above all, because of an overwhelming response from constituents in favor of saving the Metolius.

"Usually, you get these form letters," Galizio told The Oregonian. "I was getting lengthy, passionate, specific letters, from land-use attorneys, from average people. These were heartfelt letters. In my three terms, I've never received such an outpouring of emotion."

So much for those - including the editorial page of our local daily newspaper - who claimed the bill was special interest legislation being pushed by a handful of elitist Metolius property owners who wanted to keep the unwashed masses out of their private playground.

In reality, the victory of the bill is a victory for tens of thousands of people from all over the state - indeed, from all over America - who enjoy fishing, hiking, camping, photographing, or just immersing themselves in the incredible unspoiled beauty of one of this state's most spectacular natural areas.

For the losers - chiefly the would-be developers of the planned Metolian "eco-resort" and Jefferson County, which is desperate for anything resembling economic development - we don't have much sympathy.

The developers had an offer from the state to build a smaller resort near the Metolius; they turned it down and bet on a high-gear lobbying campaign greased with lots of dollars. They lost. That's politics. And they may still have an opportunity to build their "green" resort elsewhere in the state.

As for Jefferson County, it's a big place and there are lots of other locations to site destination resorts.

So we're handing out GLASS SLIPPERS all around to everybody who put the Metolius bill over the top - to Rep. Brian Clem, who sponsored it; to Galizio, for finally seeing the light; to Kulongoski and State Treasurer Ben Westlund, who kept on pushing; to Friends of the Metolius and Central Oregon LandWatch, who did the same; and above all to the thousands of ordinary people who didn't stop calling and e-mailing and sending letters even when the battle seemed lost. Ladies and gentlemen of Oregon, well done.

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