As throughout its history, Oregon’s economy today still has strong ties to its natural environment. The three leading sources of income are agriculture, forest products, and tourism. In farming, technological and scientific changes have made the industry more productive but have also raised the costs of operations so that fewer farmers are working on larger farms. Irrigation has been an important factor also in making farmland more productive. The leading farm commodities are cattle, greenhouse and nursery products, farm forest products, milk, and hay.
The forest products industry changed significantly after World War II ended in 1945. Demand for housing and building materials grew rapidly, and new processes for making paper and particle board appeared. New varieties of fast-growing trees were developed and other species, once considered valueless, began to be used.
Improved conservation techniques were introduced. In the 1970s, federal legislation designed to protect the habitat of endangered or threatened species began to affect the industry. In 1990 the northern spotted owl, which lives in parts of the Pacific Northwest’s forests, was listed as a threatened species by federal agencies. Efforts to protect the owl and other species led to restrictions on logging in Oregon and Washington and set off years of economic and political controversy between environmentalists and timber-related industries. More than half of Oregon’s forested land is in public hands.
Tourism has continued to grow. Visitors have always come to take advantage of the state’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities in the outdoors.
Today many tourists are also visitors to urban areas, enjoying the state’s museums, historic sites, and other cultural opportunities. Salmon fishing has become less important to Oregon’s economy. The last cannery on the Columbia River closed in 1979. The supply of fish has dropped dramatically due to overfishing, dams, pollution, and the destruction of river banks. In August 1998 the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Coho salmon, a native fish of the Pacific, as a threatened species under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
In 1999 nine additional classes of wild salmon and steelhead found in Oregon and Washington were given threatened or endangered status. For the first time, the federal government extended protection to fish populations found in the waterways of the Northwest’s heavily-populated urban areas, including Portland.
The state’s newest manufacturing enterprises are in the high technology fields, such as electronics and biotechnology. During and after World War II, a number of pioneers in the high technology industry established themselves in Oregon. These companies were later joined by numerous local and foreign companies, drawn to Oregon because of its inexpensive land and power, educated workforce, and pro-business political climate. International trade has become increasingly important in the economic life of Oregon. Today Australia, Canada, and Mexico are the top three countries exporting to Oregon while Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are the principal destinations for Oregon’s exports. The structure of state government has also changed in the end of the 20th century. In the early 1960s there was an unsuccessful attempt to write a new constitution. In 1961 then Governor Mark Hatfield wanted to reorganize the government into a series of larger departments. In Hatfield’s plan, the department heads would then serve as members of the governor’s cabinet.
The measure failed, but Governor Tom McCall submitted a similar proposal in the late 1960s and persuaded the legislature to adopt a number of his suggestions, including the creation of a state ombudsman to intervene on behalf of private citizens with government officials; a department of transportation; a department of human resources; and a department of fish and wildlife. The last three departments were consolidations of several formerly independent agencies. In 1981 the legislature reorganized the court system. Taxation has been an enduring issue. The state’s revenues depend principally upon an income tax, while local governments derive most of their support from property taxes. In 1984 voters adopted a state lottery as an additional revenue-producing measure.
Attempts to add a state sales tax were defeated in 1985. More successful was the effort to limit property taxes. Although defeated in 1968, 1978, and 1982, a law limiting property taxes was passed in 1990. As Oregon’s population grows, there is an increased need for public services, such as law enforcement, schools, and transportation services. Meeting public service needs has become difficult since the passage of the property tax limitation measure in 1990. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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