Conflicts over land use are especially divisive in western states such as Oregon, where more than half the land is in public ownership. In the early 1990s, when the northern spotted owl and coastal salmon had been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, farmers, ranchers, and timber companies found themselves glaring through an ideological barbed-wire fence as environmentalists glared back.
AES and Extension faculty served as conveners to help communities work through conflicts to find common ground. Their work demonstrated that voluntary, collective, local efforts could solve tough problems, even when tougher methods like regulations and lawsuits were apparently doing little good. The result has been the establishment of local watershed councils and community-based working groups where OSU faculty provide research-based information to neighbors and land managers in a forum of shared problem-solving.