Kitzhaber opens door to regional land-use planning

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Gov. John Kitzhaber is loosening the state's grip on land-use planning.

The governor quietly signed an executive order May 10 opening the door for three southern Oregon counties eventually to allow new development on some farm and forest land.

The order directs the state to work with Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties on new criteria for designating certain land uses, and environmentalists who have fought such regionalization efforts in the Legislature are cautiously going along. The process could spark a revision of two of the 19 goals that guide land-use decisions.

Critics of Oregon's land-use restrictions have long sought more regional influence. Some southern Oregon landowners complain that farming or forestry can't realistically be profitable on thousands of acres that are restricted to those uses under the state's current rules.