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Oregon Legislature Acts to Address Bias Crimes on Public Lands

Oregon Legislature Acts to Address Bias Crimes on Public Lands
Photo: Latourell Falls: Annie Kaplan
June 9, 2021
Categorie(s): Latest News


"When some don't feel safe on lands meant to benefit everyone, it's a detriment to all Oregonians," Friends Executive Director Kevin Gorman stressed.

Press Contacts 

-- Burt Edwards, communications director | 703.861.8237 (Cell) | (email)
-- Michael Lang, conservation director | 503.490.3979 (Cell) | (email)

PORTLAND, OR – Today, the Oregon House approved SB 289 (Ayes, 41; Nays, 17; Excused, 2). This follows on passage this April in the Oregon Senate by a wide bipartisan margin (Ayes, 25; Nays, 3; Excused, 2). The product of a special task force convenes last year by the Governor's Office, the bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown for signing.

The recently passed legislation the bill would help protect the public from bias crimes by prohibiting persons convicted of these crimes on public lands under ORS 166.155 and ORS 166.165 from using state parks and state waters for a period of at least six months, but not longer than five years. It would also suspend or revoke licenses for recreation uses and prohibit the issuance of licenses for a period of at least six months, but not longer than five years.

In reaction to the bill's final passage, Friends of the Columbia Gorge Executive Director Kevin Gorman said: "Oregon's public lands are intended for all members of the public to enjoy. But the incidence of bias crimes on these lands creates an invisible barrier to access, striking fear and anxiety in those individuals whose skin color, gender identity, ethnic background, or religious beliefs could make them targets of harassment or attacks. When some don't feel safe on lands meant to benefit everyone, it's a detriment to all Oregonians."

Friends Conservation Director Michael Lang, who testified in support of SB 289 in its May House Judiciary hearing, added: "By passing SB 289, the Oregon House has joined its colleagues in the Senate in sending a clear, unmistakable message: Bias crimes on Oregon public lands and waterways will not be tolerated. We call on leaders in Washington State to follow suit and take similar action to ensure equal protection on both sides of the Columbia Gorge. No matter what side of the river you may live on or visit, the Gorge should be a welcoming space for all."

On May 26, Friends of the Columbia Gorge hosted a special virtual discussion ("Outdoor Access for All")—organized in collaboration with Comunidades, Love is King, and People of Colors Outdoors—to explore the opportunities and challenges in ensuring equitable access for all to state parks and lands in the Columbia Gorge and beyond across both Oregon and Washington. A video archive of the discussion is available at:  

"Today, leaders in Salem took a crucial step to address concerns by many across Oregon about safety, access, and equity in the outdoors and ensure that public lands really are ourlands—places to be enjoyed by all without fear of reprisal for simply existing in a public space. We thank Gov. Brown's Task Force on the Outdoors for taking public concerns seriously and the Legislature for developing and passing this important bill," Gorman stressed.

Background Information

SB 289 – Safety in the Outdoors: The bill seeks to reduce and eliminate bias crimes and incidents on state managed property by creating penalties sufficient to provide a deterrent to the perpetrators. The bill will accomplish this by:
  • Defining what privilege(s) are to be withheld from perpetrators convicted of bias crimes and incidents. These privileges include access to Oregon State Parks and boating, fishing, hunting, and shellfish licenses and permits.
  • Establishing a process for relevant state agencies to determine an appropriate penalty, including revocation and denial of state privileges administered by natural resources agencies for a period up to five years.
  • Adding bias crimes to the reasons state agency boards and commissions may revoke or deny licenses.
  • Enabling the convicted person to be required to engage in restorative justice activities like community service and anti-bias training.
-- Text of SB 289 and SB 289 amendments

-- According to a fall 2020 report: "Hate crimes in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade as federal officials also recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s, according to an FBI report released Monday. … There were 7,314 hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before — and approaching the 7,783 of 2008."

-- In Oregon, according to reports, hate crimes and bias incidents spiked 366% last year. Last March: "nearly 18% of the reports came from the state’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In April, that number climbed to nearly 20% as fear over the coronavirus spread."

-- In 2019, the Oregon legislature passed SB 577, which updated Oregon’s bias crime laws (formerly called intimidation), defined the new legal term bias incidents, created a victim-centered response hotline for reporting bias, requires law enforcement to refer all victims of bias incidents to support services, and streamlines data collection about bias occurring in Oregon.

Read a blog by Friends Board Chair Greg Delwiche on Friends work on SB 289:

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Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with over 6,500 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations. Friends maintains an office in Portland, Oregon, as well as in two Gorge towns—Hood River, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington. Learn more: or follow us: @GorgeFriends