Oregon residents have long been leaders in environmental protection. They were the first to adopt legislation banning the sale of nonreturnable beverage bottles and cans, and later voters banned the sale of aerosol cans containing fluorocarbons, suspected of damaging the earth’s ozone layer. In 2008 the state had 12 hazardous waste sites placed on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people.
Over the last several decades major conflicts within the state have arisen as the goals of environmental organizations clash with those of forest-products and agriculture interests. Those with occupations based on traditional natural resources utilization, such as logging, irrigation, and grazing, feel threatened by environmental rules and regulations restricting long-established approaches to resource use.
Environmental organizations and their members are concentrated in the state’s few metropolitan areas, for the most part in the Willamette Valley, whereas Oregonians skeptical of environmental goals make up the majority in rural areas and small towns throughout most of the rest of the state.
Spotted owls and salmon have become symbols of the controversy. The rare spotted owl, believed to need old growth timber as a habitat, has been considered a threatened species since 1990. The resulting restrictions on logging in areas of spotted owl habitats, coupled with the results of years of overharvest, has hurt the timber industry. These efforts intensified in 1999 after the federal government classified nine wild salmon species as either threatened or endangered. This decision expanded the need for salmon protection and restoration in Oregon waterways, including the Willamette River in the Portland metropolitan area. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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