Area, 96,981 sq mi (251,181 sq km). Pop. (2000) 3,421,399, a 20.4% increase since the 1990 census. Capital, Salem. Largest city, Portland. Statehood, Feb. 14, 1859 (33d state). Highest pt., Mt. Hood, 11,239 ft (3,428 m); lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Beaver State. Motto, The Union. State bird, Western meadowlark. State flower, Oregon grape. State tree, Douglas fir. Abbr., Oreg.; OR
Oregon's contrasting physical features are characterized by great forested mountain slopes and treeless basins, rushing rivers and barren playas, lush valleys and extensive wastelands. The major determinant for these unusual climatic differences is the Cascade Range, a rugged mountain chain running north to south c.100 mi (160 km) inland. As the eastward-moving air masses, warmed by the Alaska Current and heavy with moisture from the Pacific Ocean, rise and meet the cooler mountain temperatures, rain is precipitated over the western third of Oregon. Dry air and continental climate prevail over the eastern two thirds of the state.
The Pacific shoreline (c.300 mi/480 km) is bordered by narrow coastal plains of sandy beaches, luxuriant pastures, and occasional jutting promontories. About 25 mi (40 km) inland, the rugged Coast Range rises to heights of 4,000 ft (1,220 m) to serve as the western wall of the Willamette Valley. In the valley, where the navigable Willamette flows north through miles of rolling farmlands into the Columbia River, lie the agricultural, commercial, and industrial centers of the state. Portland, the largest city, whose metropolitan area contains nearly half the state's population, straddles the Willamette near its junction with the Columbia. Salem, the capital, and Eugene, the second largest city, lie southward in the valley, which is sealed off in the south by the low range of the Calapooya Mts.
The snowcapped volcanic peaks of the Cascades are E of the Willamette, with beautiful Mt. Hood rising to the state's highest elevation (11,235 ft/3,424 m). Mighty stands of timber, many protected as national forests, cover the slopes. Eastward the Cascades level out into high plateaus drained in the north by the Deschutes and the John Day rivers. To the south a variegated pattern of marshland and mountain merges in the east into the semiarid Basin and Range Region. Little vegetation grows here, and the absence of potable water makes habitation difficult.
North of this area rise the pine-covered Blue and Wallowa mts., which in some places extend to the Snake River to form precipitous gorges. Other parts of the region where the Snake cuts through the plateau are more level and have been made productive through irrigation. Oregon's irrigation projects include the Deschutes, the Umatilla, and the Vale; the Klamath, shared with California; and the Boise and the Owyhee, shared with Idaho.
Oregon's major sources of farm income are greenhouse products, wheat, cattle (huge herds graze on the plateaus E of the Cascades), and dairy items. Hay, wheat, pears, and onions are important, and the state is one of the nation's leading producers of snap beans, peppermint, sweet cherries (orchards are particularly numerous in the N Willamette Valley), broccoli, and strawberries. Oregon has developed an important and growing wine industry since 1980.
The state's 30.7 million acres (12.4 million hectares) of rich forestland (almost half the state) comprise the country's greatest reserves of standing timber; huge areas have been set aside for conservation. Wood processing was long the state's major industry; Douglas fir predominates in the Cascades and western pine in the eastern regions. Since 1991 many areas have been closed to logging in order to protect endangered wildlife. Nevertheless, Oregon has retained its title as the nation's foremost lumber state, producing more than 5 billion board feet a year. Other major products are food, paper and paper items, machinery, and fabricated metals. Printing and publishing are important businesses. In recent decades Oregon (now sometimes called "Silicon Forest") has become home to many computer and electronic companies; growth in this sector has offset job losses in the timber industry.
Abundant, cheap electric power is supplied by numerous dams, most notably those on the Columbia River—Bonneville Dam, The Dalles Dam, and McNary Dam. The John Day Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric generators in the world. The dams also aid in flood control and navigation. The Bonneville Dam, in the steep gorge where the Columbia River pierces the Cascades, enables large vessels to travel far inland, and although river traffic is less vital than formerly, the Columbia River cities still serve as transport centers for a vast hinterland to the east.
Oregon's river resources are one of its greatest assets. Its salmon-fishing industry, centered around Astoria, is one of the world's largest; other catches are tuna and crabs. Although mining is still underdeveloped, Oregon leads the nation in the production of nickel.
Oregon's beautiful ocean beaches, lakes, and mountains make tourism another important industry. Major attractions are the Oregon Caves National Monument, Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, and McLoughlin House National Historic Site (see National Parks and Monuments, table); Crater Lake National Park is a famed destination. There are 13 national forests, one national grassland, and more than 220 state parks.
Oregon still operates under its original (1857) constitution. Its executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. Its legislature has a senate with 30 members and an assembly with 60 members. The state elects two senators and five representatives to the U.S. Congress and has seven electoral votes. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat elected governor in 1994, was reelected in 1998. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Ted Kulongoski, who was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006.
Among the state's more prominent institutions of higher learning are the Univ. of Oregon at Eugene; Oregon State Univ. at Corvallis; Reed College and Portland State Univ. at Portland; and Willamette Univ. at Salem.
Initial European interest in the region was aroused by the search for the Northwest Passage. Spanish seamen skirted the Pacific coast from the 16th to the 18th cent., hoping to claim the area. The English may first have arrived in the person of Sir Francis Drake, who sailed along the coast in 1579, possibly as far as Oregon.
Two centuries later, in 1778, Capt. James Cook, seeking the award of £20,000 for the discovery of the Northwest Passage, charted some of the coastline. By this time the Russians were pushing southward from posts in Alaska and the British fur companies were exploring the West. Oregon's furs promised to become an important factor in the rapidly expanding China trade, and the Oregon coast was soon active with the vessels of several nations engaged in fur trade with the Native Americans. British captains, among them John Meares and George Vancouver, made the coastal area known, but it was an American, Robert Gray, who first sailed up the Columbia River (1792), thus establishing U.S. claim to the areas that it drained.
Canadian traders of the North West Company were approaching the Columbia River country when the overland Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in 1805. David Thompson was already making his way to the lower river when John Jacob Astor's agents (in the Pacific Fur Company) founded Astoria, the first permanent settlement in the Oregon country. In the War of 1812 the post was sold (1813) to the North West Company, but in 1818 a treaty provided for 10 years of joint rights for the United States and Great Britain in Oregon (i.e., the whole Columbia River area). This agreement was later extended. The North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, and soon the region was dominated by John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver.Settlement and Statehood
In 1842 and 1843 enormous wagon trains began the "great migration" westward over the Oregon Trail. Trouble between the settlers and the British followed. The Americans set out to form their own government, and demanded the British be removed from the whole of the Columbia River country up to lat. 54°40'N; one of the slogans of the 1844 election was "Fifty-four forty or fight." War with Britain was a threat momentarily, but diplomacy prevailed. In 1846 the boundary was set at the line of lat. 49°N, but disagreements over the interpretation of the 1846 treaty were not successfully arbitrated until 1872 (see San Juan Boundary Dispute).
Two years later the Oregon Territory was created, embracing the area W of the Rockies from the 42d to the 49th parallel. The area was reduced with the creation of the Washington Territory in 1853, and Oregon became a state in 1859 with a constitution that prohibited slaveholding but also forbade free blacks from entering the state. Although the California gold rush caused a temporary exodus of settlers, it also brought a new market for Oregon's goods, and the Oregon gold strike that followed attracted some permanent settlement to the eastern hills and valleys.
Wheat farming prospered and in 1867-68 a surplus crop was shipped to England—the beginning of Oregon's great wheat export trade. Cattle and sheep were driven up from California to graze on the tallgrass of the semiarid plateaus, and soon cattle barons, such as Henry Miller, acquired huge herds. They dominated the industry until the late 19th cent., when sheepmen and homesteaders succeeded in reducing the cattle range. The 1850s, 60s, and 70s were plagued by Native American uprisings, but by 1880 troubles with the Native American were over, and the next few decades brought increasing settlement and internal improvements.Railroads and Industrialization
During the 1880s, and largely under the management of Henry Villard of the Northern Pacific RR, transcontinental rail lines were completed to the coast and down the Willamette Valley into California, bringing new trade and stimulating the beginnings of manufacture. Lumbering, which had long been important, became a leading industry. Seemingly overnight logging camps and sawmills were built in the western foothills. The huge stands of Douglas fir and cedar brought fortunes to the lumbering kings, but the threat to natural resources led ultimately to the creation of national forests.
By the time of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition at Portland in 1905, less than 50 years after statehood had been gained, the frontier era had passed. Most of the feuding on the eastern plateaus was over, and cattle and sheep grazed peacefully on fenced-in ranges. In spring the Willamette Valley was abloom with fruit blossoms, and the river cities were busy with trade and industry.Reform Movements and Environmental Issues
Oregon has been a leader in social, environmental, and political reforms. It was the first state, for example, to institute initiative, referendum, and recall; to ease the laws governing the use of marijuana; and to initiate a ban against nonrecyclable containers. Several issues have sharply divided conservatives and liberals; one of the most important has been the question of minority groups. In the 1880s the influx of Chinese threatened the labor market and brought violent anti-Chinese sentiment, and in the 20th cent. there was opposition to the Japanese. Feeling against minorities has never been statewide, however, and large groups have vigorously opposed it.
In the 1930s one of the most disputed issues was the question of whether the development of power should be public or private. Today, however, it is widely recognized that the federal power and irrigation projects have had a profoundly positive effect on the economy of the entire Pacific Northwest. Many acres have been opened to irrigated farming, and the tremendous industrial expansion of World War II was to a large extent dependent on Bonneville power.
Environmental issues have dominated Oregon politics since the 1970s. Controversy arose in the late 1980s over the spotted owl, which has become endangered as old-growth forest has been cut down. Restrictions on logging on public lands were initiated in 1991, and attempts to establish forest policies acceptable to both environmentalists and the timber industry bogged down as other species were also shown to be in danger. There also is concern that the state's numerous hydroelectric dams are disrupting the migratory cycle of Pacific salmon.
See R. Atkeson, Oregon Coast (1972); W. G. Loy et al., Atlas of Oregon (1976); W. A. Bowen, The Willamette Valley: Migration and Settlement on the Oregon Frontier (1978); S. and E. Dicken, Two Centuries of Oregon Geography (Vol. I, 1979; Vol. II, 1982) and Oregon Divided: A Regional Geography (1982).
Major U.S. route to the Northwest in the 19th century. It stretched about 2,000 mi (3,200 km), from Independence, Mo., to the Columbia River region of Oregon. First used by fur traders and missionaries, it was heavily used in the 1840s by travelers to Oregon, including settlers of the “great migration,” led by Marcus Whitman. Of all western trails, it was in use for the longest period, surviving competition from the railroad by serving as a trail for eastward cattle and sheep drives.
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National monument, southwestern Oregon, U.S. It is a single cave comprising a series of chambers joined by subterranean corridors on four levels. Located in the Siskiyou Mountains near the California border, the monument was established in 1909. It has an area of 488 acres (197 hectares). It contains many stalagmites, stalactites, and other formations.
Learn more about Oregon Caves National Monument with a free trial on Britannica.com.
State (pop., 2000: 3,421,399), U.S., northwestern region. Lying on the Pacific Ocean, it is bordered by Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and California. It covers 97,073 sq mi (251,419 sq km). Its capital is Salem. The Columbia River forms its northern boundary; the Snake River is its upper eastern boundary. The Cascades Range, with Mount Hood, is in western central Oregon. First sighted by Spanish explorers, it was visited by Francis Drake in 1579 and by James Cook in 1778. The area was inhabited by many American Indian peoples when in 1792 Capt. Robert Gray explored the Columbia River, giving the U.S. a claim to the region. The river's mouth was reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. The first white settlement was founded at Astoria in 1811 by the fur trader John J. Astor. Settlement of the area accelerated from circa 1843 with mass migration over the Oregon Trail. It was part of the Oregon Territory and was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state in 1859. The state's economy is dependent on its forests, farms, and livestock. Salmon and shellfish are the bases of the fishing industry. Centres of population, arts, and education are Portland, Eugene, and Medford.
Learn more about Oregon with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The valley of the Willamette River in western Oregon is the most densely populated and agriculturally productive region of the state and is home to 8 of the 10 most populous cities. Oregon's population in 2000 was about 3.5 million, a 20.3% increase over 1990; it is estimated to have reached 3.7 million by 2006. Oregon's largest private employer is Intel, located in the Silicon Forest area in Portland's west side. Nike and Precision Castparts are the only Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state. The state has 199 public school districts, with Portland Public Schools as the largest. There are 17 community colleges, and seven publicly financed colleges in the Oregon University System. Oregon Health & Science University, the state's only medical school, is affiliated with the system. Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Oregon in Eugene are the two flagship universities of the state, while Portland State University has the largest enrollment. Willamette University in Salem is the oldest college in Oregon and the west coast.
Major highways include Interstate 5 which runs the entire north-south length of the state, Interstate 84 that runs east-west, U.S. Route 97 that crosses the middle of the state, U.S. Route 101 that travels the entire coastline, and U.S. Route 20 and U.S. Route 26 that run east-west, among many other highways. Portland International Airport is the busiest commercial airport in the state, run by the Port of Portland, the busiest port in Oregon. Rail service includes Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway freight service, Amtrak passenger service, as well as light rail and street car routes in the Portland metro area.
Oregon enjoys a broadly diverse landscape. From its scenic and accessible Pacific coastline, east to the volcanoes of its rugged, glaciated Cascade Range, dense evergreen forests tower over a third of Northern Oregon and nearly half of Southern Oregon. East of the Cascades, lower density pine forests occur in the northeast while juniper forests, semi-arid scrublands, prairies, and deserts, comprising approximately half the state, stretch out across north Central Oregon and Eastern. Mount Hood is the highest point in the state at 11,239 feet (3,425 m) above sea-level. Crater Lake National Park is the only National Park in Oregon.
Human habitation of the Pacific Northwest began at least 15,000 years ago, with the oldest evidence of habitation in Oregon found at Fort Rock Cave in Lake County by archaeologist Luther Cressman dating to 13,200 years ago. By 8000 B.C. there were settlements throughout the state, with populations concentrated along the lower Columbia River, in the western valleys, and around coastal estuaries.
James Cook explored the coast in 1778 in search of the Northwest Passage. The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled through the region during their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. They built their winter fort at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Exploration by Lewis and Clark (1805–1806) and the United Kingdom's David Thompson (1811) publicized the abundance of fur-bearing animals in the area. Also in 1811, New Yorker John Jacob Astor financed the establishment of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River as a western outpost to his Pacific Fur Company; this was the first permanent Caucasian settlement in Oregon.
In the War of 1812, the British gained control of all of the Pacific Fur Company posts. By the 1820s and 1830s, the Hudson's Bay Company dominated the Pacific Northwest from its Columbia District headquarters at Fort Vancouver (built in 1825 by the District's Chief Factor John McLoughlin across the Columbia from present-day Portland).
In 1841, the master trapper and entrepreneur Ewing Young died leaving considerable wealth and no apparent heir, and no system to probate his estate. A meeting followed Young's funeral at which a probate government was proposed. Doctor Ira Babcock of Jason Lee's Methodist Mission was elected Supreme Judge. Babcock chaired two meetings in 1842 at Champoeg (half way between Lee's mission and Oregon City) to discuss wolves and other animals of contemporary concern. These meetings were precursors to an all-citizen meeting in 1843, which instituted a provisional government headed by an executive committee made up of David Hill, Alanson Beers, and Joseph Gale. This government was the first acting public government of the Oregon Country before annexation by the government of the United States.
The Oregon Trail brought many new settlers to the region, starting in 1842–1843, after the United States agreed with the United Kingdom to jointly settle the Oregon Country. For some time, it seemed that these two nations would go to war for a third time in 75 years (see Oregon boundary dispute), but the border was defined peacefully in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty. The border between the United States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848.
Settlement increased because of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, in conjunction with the forced relocation of the native population to Indian reservations in Oregon. The state was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859.
At the outbreak of the American Civil War, regular U.S. troops were withdrawn and sent east. Volunteer cavalry were recruited in California and sent north to Oregon to keep peace and protect the populace. The First Oregon Cavalry served until June 1865.
Industrial expansion began in earnest following the construction of the Bonneville Dam in 1933-1937 on the Columbia River. Hydroelectric power, food, and lumber provided by Oregon helped fuel the development of the West, although the periodic fluctuations in the U.S. building industry have hurt the state's economy on multiple occasions.
The state has a long history of polarizing conflicts: American Indians vs. British fur trappers, British vs. U.S. settlers, ranchers vs. farmers, wealthy growing cities vs. established but poor rural areas, loggers vs. environmentalists, white supremacists vs. anti-racists, social progressivism vs. small-government conservatism, supporters of social spending vs. anti-tax activists, and native Oregonians vs. Californians (or outsiders in general). Oregonians also have a long history of secessionist ideas, with people in various regions and on all sides of the political spectrum attempting to form other states and even other countries. (See: State of Jefferson, Cascadia and Ecotopia.)
In 1902, Oregon introduced a system of direct legislation by the state’s citizens by way of initiative and referendum, known as the Oregon System. Oregon state ballots often include politically conservative proposals side-by-side with politically liberal ones, illustrating the wide spectrum of political thought in the state.
The origin of the name "Oregon" is unknown. According to the Oregon Blue Book, the source for the earliest written use of the word was Major Robert Rogers, an English army officer. In his 1765 proposal for a journey, Rogers wrote:
One account, endorsed as the "most plausible explanation" in the book Oregon Geographic Names, was advanced by George R. Stewart in a 1944 article in American Speech. According to Stewart, the name came from an engraver's error in a French map published in the early 1700s, on which the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin) River was spelled "Ouaricon-sint", broken on two lines with the -sint below, so that there appeared to be a river flowing to the west named "Ouaricon".
According to the Oregon Tourism Commission (also known as Travel Oregon), present-day Oregonians pronounce the state's name as "OR-UH-GUN never OR-EE-GONE".
However, many Oregonians, including former Oregon Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington, pronounce the state as "ORYGUN. After being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2002, Harrington distributed "ORYGUN" stickers (sold by the University of Oregon Bookstore, which actually credits the spelling as a joke "meant for Oregonians everywhere who get a kick out of this hilarious mispronunciation of our state.") to members of the media as a reminder of how to pronounce his home state.
|Crater Lake National Park||Southern Oregon|
|John Day Fossil Beds National Monument||Eastern Oregon|
|Newberry National Volcanic Monument||Central Oregon|
|Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument||Southern Oregon|
|Oregon Caves National Monument||Southern Oregon|
|California National Historic Trail||Southern Oregon, California|
|Fort Vancouver National Historic Site||Western Oregon, Washington|
|Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail||IL, MO, KS, IA, NE, SD, ND, MT, ID, OR, WA|
|Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks||Western Oregon, Washington|
|Nez Perce National Historical Park||MT, ID, OR, WA|
|Oregon National Historic Trail||MO, KS, NE, WY, ID, OR|
Oregon's geography may be split roughly into seven areas:
The mountainous regions of western Oregon were formed by the volcanic activity of Juan de Fuca Plate, a tectonic plate that poses a continued threat of volcanic activity and earthquakes in the region. The most recent major activity was the 1700 Cascadia earthquake; Washington's Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, an event which was visible from Portland.
The Columbia River, which constitutes much of the northern border of Oregon, also played a major role in the region's geological evolution, as well as its economic and cultural development. The Columbia is one of North America's largest rivers, and the only river to cut through the Cascades. About 15,000 years ago, the Columbia repeatedly flooded much of Oregon during the Missoula Floods; the modern fertility of the Willamette Valley is largely a result of those floods. Plentiful salmon made parts of the river, such as Celilo Falls, hubs of economic activity for thousands of years. In the 20th century, numerous hydroelectric dams were constructed along the Columbia, with major impacts on salmon, transportation and commerce, electric power, and flood control.
Today, Oregon's landscape varies from rainforest in the Coast Range to barren desert in the southeast, which still meets the technical definition of a frontier. Oregon is 295 miles (475 km) north to south at longest distance, and 395 miles (636 km) east to west at longest distance. In terms of land and water area, Oregon is the ninth largest state, covering . The highest point in Oregon is the summit of Mount Hood, at 11,239 feet (3,428 m), and its lowest point is sea level of the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon coast. Its mean elevation is 3,300 feet (1,006 m). Crater Lake National Park is the state's only National Park, and the site of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet (592 m). Oregon claims the D River is the shortest river in the world, though the American state of Montana makes the same claim of its Roe River. Oregon is also home to Mill Ends Park (in Portland), the smallest park in the world at 452 square inches (0.29 m²).
|Ten Most Populous Cities in Oregon: 2007|
Oregon's population is largely concentrated in the Willamette Valley, which stretches from Eugene in the south (home of the University of Oregon, second largest city in Oregon) through Corvallis (home of Oregon State University) and Salem (the capital, third largest) to Portland (Oregon's largest city).
Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, was the first permanent English-speaking settlement west of Rockies in what is now the United States. Oregon City, at the end of the Oregon Trail, was the Oregon Territory's first incorporated city, and was its first capital from 1848 until 1852, when the capital was moved to Salem. Bend, near the geographic center of the state, is one of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. In the southern part of the state, Medford is a rapidly growing metro area, which is home to The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, the third-busiest airport in the state. Further to the south, near the California-Oregon border, is the community of Ashland, home of the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The Oregon Country functioned as an independent republic with a three-person executive office and a chief executive until August 13,1848, when Oregon was annexed by the United States, at which time a territorial government was established. Oregon maintained a territorial government until February 14, 1859, when it was granted statehood.
Governors in Oregon serve four year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms, but an unlimited number of total terms. Oregon has no Lieutenant Governor; in the event that the office of Governor is vacated, Article V, Section 8a of the Oregon Constitution specifies that the Secretary of State is first in line for succession. The other statewide officers are Treasurer, Attorney General, Superintendent, and Labor Commissioner. The Biennial Oregon Legislative Assembly consists of a thirty-member Senate and a sixty-member House. The state supreme court has seven elected justices, currently including the only two openly gay state supreme court justices in the nation. They choose one of their own to serve a six-year term as Chief Justice. The only court that may reverse or modify a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of the United States.
The debate over whether to move to annual sessions is a long-standing battle in Oregon politics, but the voters have resisted the move from citizen legislators to professional lawmakers. Because Oregon's state budget is written in two year increments and, having no sales tax, its revenue is based largely on income taxes, it is often significantly over- or under-budget. Recent legislatures have had to be called into special session repeatedly to address revenue shortfalls resulting from economic downturns, bringing to a head the need for more frequent legislative sessions.
The state maintains formal relationships with the nine federally recognized tribal governments in Oregon:
Oregonians have voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in every election since 1988. In 2004 and 2006, Democrats won control of the state Senate and then the House. Since the late 1990s, Oregon has been represented by four Democrats and one Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and by one U.S. Senator from each party. Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski defeated Republicans in 2002 and 2006, defeating conservative Kevin Mannix and the more moderate Ron Saxton respectively.
The base of Democratic support is largely concentrated in the urban centers of the Willamette Valley. In both 2000 and 2004, the Democratic Presidential candidate won Oregon, but did so with majorities in only eight of Oregon's 36 counties. The eastern two-thirds of the state beyond the Cascade Mountains often votes Republican; in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush carried every county east of the Cascades. However, the region's sparse population means that the more populous counties in the Willamette Valley usually carry the day in statewide elections.
Oregon's politics are largely similar to those of neighboring Washington, for instance in the contrast between urban and rural issues.
In the 2004 general election, Oregon voters passed ballot measures banning gay marriage, and restricting land use regulation. In the 2006 general election, voters restricted the use of eminent domain and extended the state's discount prescription drug coverage.
The distribution, sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages are regulated in the state by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Thus, Oregon is an Alcoholic beverage control state. While wine and beer are available in most grocery stores, comparatively few stores sell hard liquor.
The historical policies of racial discrimination have had longterm effects on Oregon's population. A 1994 report from an Oregon Supreme Court task force found minorities more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, incarcerated and on probation than "similarly situated nonminorities." The report does not place blame on individuals, but instead points out the problems of institutional racism. The report recommends multicultural training of the existing justice system personnel and also recommends diversifying the perspectives, backgrounds and demographics of future hires.
After Oregon was admitted to the Union, it began with a single member in the House of Representatives (La Fayette Grover, who served in the 35th United States Congress for less than a month). Congressional apportionment led to the addition of new members following the censuses of 1890, 1910, 1940, and 1980. A detailed list of the past and present Congressional delegations from Oregon is available.
The United States District Court for the District of Oregon hears Federal cases in the state. Oregon (among other western states and territories) is in the 9th judicial circuit.
During Oregon's history it has adopted many electoral reforms proposed during the Progressive Era, through the efforts of William S. U'Ren and his Direct Legislation League. Under his leadership, the state overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in 1902 that created the initiative and referendum processes for citizens to directly introduce or approve proposed laws or amendments to the state constitution, making Oregon the first state to adopt such a system. Today, roughly half of U.S. states do so. In following years, the primary election to select party candidates was adopted in 1904, and in 1908 the Oregon Constitution was amended to include recall of public officials. More recent amendments include the nation's only doctor-assisted suicide law, called the Death with Dignity law (which was challenged, unsuccessfully, in 2005 by the Bush administration in a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court), legalization of medical cannabis, and among the nation's strongest anti-urban sprawl and pro-environment laws. More recently, 2004's Measure 37 reflects a backlash against such land use laws. However, a further ballot measure in 2007, Measure 49, curtailed many of the provisions of 37.
Of the measures placed on the ballot since 1902, the people have passed 99 of the 288 initiatives and 25 of the 61 referendums on the ballot, though not all of them survived challenges in courts (see Pierce v. Society of Sisters, for an example). During the same period, the legislature has referred 363 measures to the people, of which 206 have passed.
Oregon pioneered the American use of postal voting, beginning with experimentation authorized by the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1981 and culminating with a 1998 ballot measure mandating that all counties conduct elections by mail.
In the U.S. Electoral College, Oregon casts seven votes. Oregon has supported Democratic candidates in the last five elections. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won the state in 2004 by a margin of four percentage points, with 51.4% of the popular vote.
Land in the Willamette Valley owes its fertility to the Missoula Floods, which deposited lake sediment from Lake Missoula in western Montana onto the valley floor. This soil is the source of a wealth of agricultural products, including potatoes, peppermint, hops, apples and other fruits.
Oregon is also one of four major world hazelnut growing regions, and produces 95% of the domestic hazelnuts in the United States. While the history of the wine production in Oregon can be traced to before Prohibition, it became a significant industry beginning in the 1970s. In 2005, Oregon ranked third among U.S. states with 303 wineries. Due to regional similarities in climate and soil, the grapes planted in Oregon are often the same varieties found in the French regions of Alsace and Burgundy. In the northeastern region of the state, particularly around Pendleton, both irrigated and dryland wheat is grown. Oregon farmers and ranchers also produce cattle, sheep, dairy products, eggs and poultry.
Vast forests have historically made Oregon one of the nation's major timber production and logging states, but forest fires (such as the Tillamook Burn), over-harvesting, and lawsuits over the proper management of the extensive federal forest holdings have reduced the amount of timber produced. According to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, between 1989 and 2001 the amount of timber harvested from federal lands dropped some 96%, from 4,333 million to 173 million board feet (10,000,000 to 408,000 m³), although harvest levels on private land have remained relatively constant. Even the shift in recent years towards finished goods such as paper and building materials has not slowed the decline of the timber industry in the state. The effects of this decline have included Weyerhaeuser's acquisition of Portland-based Willamette Industries in January 2002, the relocation of Louisiana Pacific's corporate headquarters from Portland to Nashville, and the decline of former lumber company towns such as Gilchrist. Despite these changes, Oregon still leads the United States in softwood lumber production; in 2001, 6,056 million board feet (14,000,000 m³) was produced in Oregon, compared to 4,257 million board feet (10,050,000 m³) in Washington, 2,731 million board feet (6,444,000 m³) in California, 2,413 million board feet (5,694,000 m³) in Georgia, and 2,327 million board feet (5,491,000 m³) in Mississippi. The effect of the forest industry crunch is still extensive unemployment in rural Oregon and is a bone of contention between rural and urban Oregon.
Oregon occasionally hosts film shoots. Movies wholly or partially filmed in Oregon include Rooster Cogburn,The Goonies, National Lampoon's Animal House, Stand By Me, Kindergarten Cop, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Paint Your Wagon, The Hunted, Sometimes a Great Notion, Elephant, Bandits, The Ring, The Ring 2, Quarterback Princess, Mr. Brooks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Short Circuit, Come See The Paradise, The Shining, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, The Postman, Homeward Bound, Free Willy, Free Willy 2, 1941, Swordfish, and Untraceable. Oregon native Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has incorporated many references from his hometown of Portland into the TV series. Oregon's scenic coastal and mountain highways are frequently seen in automobile commercials.
|Largest Public Corporations Headquartered in Oregon|
|Corporation||Headquarters||Market cap (million)|
|1. Nike, Inc.||near Beaverton||$32,039|
|2. Precision Castparts Corp.||Portland||$16,158|
|3. FLIR Systems||Wilsonville||$4,250|
|4. StanCorp Financial Group, Inc.||Portland||$2,495|
|5. Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc.||Portland||$1,974|
|6. Portland General Electric||Portland||$1,737|
|7. Columbia Sportswear||near Beaverton||$1,593|
|8. Northwest Natural Gas||Portland||$1,287|
|9. Mentor Graphics||Wilsonville||$976|
|10. TriQuint Semiconductor||Hillsboro||$938|
Oregon is also the home of large corporations in other industries. The world headquarters of Nike, Inc. are located near Beaverton. Medford is home to two of the largest mail order companies in the country: Harry and David Operations Corp. which sells gift items under several brands, and Musician's Friend, an international catalog and Internet retailer of musical instruments and related products.Medford is also home to the national headquarters of the Fortune 1000 company, Lithia Motors. Portland is home to one of the West's largest trade book publishing houses, Graphic Arts Center Publishing.
Oregon has one of the largest salmon-fishing industries in the world, although ocean fisheries have reduced the river fisheries in recent years. Tourism is also strong in the state; Oregon's evergreen mountain forests, waterfalls, pristine lakes (including Crater Lake National Park), and scenic beaches draw visitors year round. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, held in Ashland, is a tourist draw which complements the southern region of the state's scenic beauty and opportunity for outdoor activities.
Portland reportedly has more strip clubs per capita than both Las Vegas and San Francisco.
Oregon's gross state product is $132.66 billion as of 2006, making it the 27th largest GSP in the nation.
Oregon is one of only five states that have no sales tax. Oregon voters have been resolute in their opposition to a sales tax, voting proposals down each of the nine times they have been presented. The last vote, for 1993's Measure 1, was defeated by a 72–24% margin.
The state also has a minimum corporate tax of only $10 per year, amounting to 5.6% of the General Fund in the 2005–2007 biennium; data about what businesses pay the minimum is not available to the public. As a result, the state relies almost entirely on property and income taxes for its revenue. Oregon has the fifth highest personal income tax per person in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oregon ranked 41st out of the 50 states in taxes per person in 2005. The average paid of $1,791.45 is higher than only nine other states.
Some local governments levy sales taxes on services: the city of Ashland, for example, collects a 5% sales tax on prepared food.
Oregon is one of six states with a revenue limit. The "kicker law" stipulates that when income tax collections exceed state economists' estimates by 2 percent or more, all of the excess must be returned to taxpayers. Since the inception of the law in 1979, refunds have been issued for seven of the eleven biennia. In 2000, Ballot Measure 86 converted the "kicker" law from statute to the Oregon Constitution, and changed some of its provisions.
Federal payments to county governments, which were granted to replace timber revenue when logging in National Forests was restricted in the 1990s, have been under threat of suspension for several years. This issue dominates the future revenue of rural counties, which have come to rely on the payments in providing essential services.
As of 2005, Oregon has an estimated population of 3,641,056, which is an increase of 49,693, or 1.4%, from the prior year and an increase of 219,620, or 6.4%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 75,196 people (that is 236,557 births minus 161,361 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 150,084 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 72,263 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 77,821 people.
As of 2004, Oregon's population included 309,700 foreign-born residents (accounting for 8.7% of the state population) and an estimated 90,000 illegal immigrants (2.5% of the state population).
The largest reported ancestry groups in Oregon are: German (20.5%), English (13.2%), Irish (11.9%), American (6.2%), and Mexican (5.5%). Most Oregon counties are inhabited principally by residents of European ancestry. Concentrations of Mexican-Americans are highest in Malheur and Jefferson counties.
Oregon ranks 16th highest for population that is "white alone," with 86.1% in 2006.
6.5% of Oregon's population were reported as less than 5 years old, 24.7% under 18, and 12.8% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.4% of the population.
Of the U.S. states, Oregon has the third largest percentage of people identifying themselves as "non-religious" (tied with Colorado at 21 percent), after Washington and Vermont. However, 75-79% of Oregonians identify themselves as being Christian , and some hold deeply conservative convictions. During much of the 1990s a group of conservative Christians formed the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation limiting the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
Oregon also contains the largest community of Russian Old Believers to be found in the United States. Additionally, Oregon, particularly the Portland metropolitan area, has become known as a center of non-mainstream spirituality. The Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, reported to be the largest such institution of its kind, is headquartered in Portland, and the popular New Age film What the Bleep Do We Know? was filmed and had its premiere in Portland. There are an estimated 6 to 10 thousand Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds in Oregon.
The State has three regional universities: Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Portland State University is Oregon's largest. The Oregon Institute of Technology has its campus in Klamath Falls. The affiliate Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) comprises a medical, dental, and nursing school in Portland and a science and engineering school in Hillsboro.
Oregon has historically struggled to fund higher education. Recently, Oregon has cut its higher education budget over 2002–2006 and now Oregon ranks 46th in the country in state spending per student. However, 2007 legislation forced tuition increases to cap at 3% per year, and funded the OUS far beyond the requested governor's budget.
The state also supports 17 community colleges.
There are also private colleges further south in the Willamette Valley. McMinnville has Linfield College, while nearby Newberg is home to George Fox University. Salem is home to two private schools, Willamette University (the state's oldest, established during the provisional period) and Corban College. Eugene is home to three private colleges: Northwest Christian College, Eugene Bible College, and Gutenberg College.
The only major professional sports team in Oregon is the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the team was one of the most successful teams in the NBA in terms of both win-loss record and attendance. In the early 2000s, the team's popularity declined due to personnel and financial issues, but revived after the departure of controversial players and the acquisition of new players such as Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.
The Blazers play in the Rose Garden in Portland's Lloyd District, which is also home to the Portland LumberJax of the National Lacrosse League and the Portland Winter Hawks of the minor-league Western Hockey League.
Portland has two minor-league sports teams who play at PGE Park: The Portland Timbers of the USL First Division are a very popular soccer team, and the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League are the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Portland has actively pursued a Major League Baseball team.
Eugene and Salem also have minor-league baseball teams. The Eugene Emeralds and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes both play in the Single-A Northwest League. Oregon also has four teams in the fledgling International Basketball League: the Portland Chinooks, Central Oregon Hotshots, Salem Stampede, and the Eugene Chargers.
The Oregon State Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks football teams of the Pacific-10 Conference meet annually in the Civil War, one of the oldest college football rivalries in the United States, dating back to 1894. Both schools have had recent success in other sports as well: Oregon State won back-to-back college baseball championships in 2006 and 2007, and the University of Oregon won the NCAA men's cross country championship in 2007.
Oregon has 23 official state symbols. They are: