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Columbia River Gorge Commission - Administrative Assessment
Columbia River Gorge Commission - Administrative Assessment

PDF iconCRGC Assessment Presentation - Columbia River Gorge Commission - 10-14-14.pdf

PDF iconCRGC Comparative Assessment.pdf

PDF iconCRGC Org Assessment.pdf

PDF iconCRGC Synthesis Report.pdf

PDF iconLegal Assessment.pdf

In formally releasing the Center's work, the Exec director of the Gorge Commission, Darren Nichols, summarized the effort this way:

What will it take to protect the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area for future generations?

Earlier this week, the bi-state agency responsible to oversee that protection learned a lot more about some of the answers. On Tuesday October 14, in a public meeting at the iconic Skamania Lodge, the Columbia River Gorge Commission heard a report on the magnitude of its work, the complexity of the law it administers, and the resources it will take to achieve and sustain the purposes of the National Scenic Area Act: to protect the Gorge and support the regional economy.

The report and the presentation are now available on the Commission’s website, including:

  • A legal assessment of the National Scenic Area Act, the bi-state Gorge Compact, and the Management Plan for protecting the Gorge;
  • An assessment of the Commission’s organizational capacity since it was created in 1987;
  • A comparison of the Gorge Commission with similar organizations nationally; and
  • A synthesis of the cross-cutting themes from all three reports.

The reports and recommendations are the coordinated efforts of researchers from the Center for Public Service at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government and the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

Among their findings:

  • While “the Commission has accomplished much since its inception, it often fails to complete key requirements” because it is “under-resourced and has been since its inception.” The Commission currently has just 25% of the estimated resources needed to do its job.
  • “increases in region-wide population and tourism over the past 20 years and those projected into the foreseeable future will greatly impact the workload of the Commission and the stresses on Gorge resources.” Emerging issues such as the increasing number of recreational visitors, climate changes, and increasing fossil fuel transport were not envisioned when the Commission was created. These issues and other add to the complexity of the Commission’s work and will require it to do even more.
  • The Commission must have the staff capacity to “develop a ‘culture of collaboration’ . . . to reach out an build working partnership with federal, state, and tribal agencies in the Gorge, local community leaders, and key stakeholder groups.” The Commission remains committed to those collaborative partnerships, following on its 2012 work with the Ruckelshaus Center and Oregon Consensus outlined in a separate report.

The comprehensive assessment provides important insights into the responsibilities and the resources needed to successfully protect the Gorge and support the region’s economy. For the first time ever, Congress, Washington and Oregon, the Commission and our partners have an objective baseline for the resources and the functions needed to ensure long-term protection of the Gorge and to build strong, vibrant Gorge communities.

The Commission will spend significant time over the coming weeks and months working to understand the recommendations and incorporate them into its current operations. The Commission will also use the reports to engage discussions with Oregon and Washington lawmakers and the states’ congressional delegations – those discussions will include a request for the states to reinvest in their commitment to protect the Gorge and support the Gorge community. The states can do that for a less than $2 million dollars each and that investment will continue to pay dividends for generations.