Where is the wildlife in this equation?
The philosophy of land developers and speculators in the Stafford area has always been, "If you see a hole, fill it." They imagine that residents here want to see commercial and industrial areas in the southern portion and large tracts of homes, apartments, and villages in other areas, like on prime river-front property. But this is not the vision that the majority of residents have for Stafford where they live, nor did they move to this area for that reason. Many of us enjoy the wildlife.
The Stafford area, surrounded by Lake Oswego, West Linn, and Tualatin, is experiencing greater pressure as Tualatin and Wilsonville continue to expand for housing and commercial uses. It has forced the wildlife into Stafford in increasing numbers. But Stafford has a unique ecosystem that has offered wildlife habitat and food sources, both in forested areas and agricultural fields. While developed areas have the usual coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and deer, Stafford enjoys these and foxes, bobcats, river otter, beavers, and even the occasional bear. While developments rid their areas of bird habitat and then have soaring rat populations, we have six kinds of owls that help keep these and the mouse and gopher populations in check. We even have populations of sensitive species like red-legged frogs, pond and painted turtles, the band-tailed pigeon, and the Western meadowlark, which are in decline elsewhere.
With development, where will our wildlife go? They need the river and streams to survive, as well as trees and grasslands for habitat to raise their young and the variety of food sources associated with these open areas.
If you develop and put a plot of grassy lawn surrounded by houses and apartments, you have an "open space." The wildlife may flow through it, but they won't stay. And if this dense development has people, cars, dogs, and cats, the unusual species disappear as well as many of the common ones that have been displaced.
Our soil will grow all kinds of crops, contrary to what developers and speculators like to report. We can have some development if the 80-acre minimum of Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) were to be rezoned to Rural Residential Farm Forest five- or ten-acre parcels (RRFF-5, RRFF-10), which would allow some housing without affecting the need to widen roads, add schools, and burden residents in the cities with added expenses. The $2.7 billion infrastructure cost, split 60/40 between the developers and the cities, ends up being passed on to the new homeowners by the developers, and the 40% by the cities ends up being paid by the taxpayers, plus the residents get to pay all of the costs associated with new schools, additional fire and police protection, utility services, etc. Developers and planners forget to mention the billions of dollars in infrastructure repair needed by the cities, nor mention that a dense population creates an explosion of traffic spilling into neighborhoods already restrained by State Street, Hwy. 43, Blankenship, and 10th St. that can't be widened.
With limited development and a strong agriculture presence, the Stafford area is in a position to have its farms help feed its local and neighboring populations. And, while wildlife has no dollar value, its existence and resulting benefits in our area is priceless.
Ann Culter is a West Linn resident.
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