Absentee property owners account for about 38 percent of land ownership in Wallowa County and that trend is growing, according to a recent survey carried out by Oregon State University doctoral candidate Jesse Abrams.
Abrams conducted a survey of 209 property owners who each owns at least 20 acres. He found that many of the absentee landowners are what he refers to as "amenity-oriented," who value their land for wildlife and recreation rather than for agricultural or timber production.
Abrams is scheduled to present his findings at a community meeting in Enterprise at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Toma's Conference Room in Enterprise.
Abrams' survey showed that nearly 30 percent of absentee landowners lack a management plan to deal with the spread of noxious weeds. Another trend that emerged shows that owners of smaller parcels of land between 20 and 40 acres were less likely to treat for the spread of noxious weeds and were less likely to use the land for production.
Abram says that the trend toward absentee ownership does not spell the end of the natural resource and agricultural based businesses in the county but that "there are some areas of concern."
The trend toward absentee land ownership means that renters and managers are being increasingly relied upon to make decisions related to stewardship of the land. "There will be an ever-greater need for skilled renters and managers that can meet the landowner's objectives and provide good stewardship," Abrams explained.
The survey found that about 62 percent of landowners in the county are year-round residents and that most are product oriented concentrating on livestock, crop production or timber.
Abrams found that year-round production based landowners were more likely to create land stewardship plans for forests, to be involved in land and stream restoration, to hold commercial timber sales and to participate in value-added markets such as direct sales and producing grass finished beef products.
Some positive findings from the survey include information that shows irrigated lands, regardless of ownership, are being actively managed and that only a small proportion of rangeland is going unmanaged or being placed in reserve status.
"There is fairly broad agreement on the values and uses of irrigated lands. These are the key parts of the working landscape in Wallowa County," said Abrams.