A reconsidered proposal to move Oregon’s boundary with Idaho wouldn’t result in the Gem State reaching the Pacific Ocean, but Klamath Lake could become part of Idaho if Congress and both state Legislatures approved. (Photo by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation/Wikimedia Commons)

After voters in Douglas and Josephine counties rejected the idea of joining Idaho last week, a group trying to change Oregon’s eastern boundary is giving up on extending the Gem State to the Pacific Ocean.

Votes for the “Greater Idaho” movement  in nine counties, including Klamath County last week, can’t actually change Oregon’s borders. That would take the Oregon and Idaho legislatures and an act of Congress. But supporters of creating a sprawling, conservative and mostly rural Idaho and a compact, more urban, liberal Oregon say each vote sends a message to legislators to act. 

A new proposal from Citizens for Greater Idaho in response to last week’s election results would leave the Cascade Mountains and all the land to the west with Oregon. Bend and Sisters would also remain with Oregon despite being on the east side of the mountains, and Jefferson and Wasco counties would be divided. In all, about 386,000 of Oregon’s 4.1 million people and 63% of the state’s land would become part of Idaho. 

Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, said he’s looking for Oregon legislators to sponsor a resolution next spring to begin talks with Idaho about moving the border. State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, last year told constituents he would introduce such a resolution if county commissioners asked, though he doesn’t personally support the idea of moving the state’s borders. 

McCarter said southern Oregon was welcome to join if voters change their minds, but he wants to focus on the eastern Oregon counties that have already indicated interest. 

“Eastern Oregon has consistently voted in favor and so we want eastern Oregon’s request to join Idaho to be heard,” he said. “There’s only a few counties left in eastern Oregon that haven’t gotten a chance to vote on Greater Idaho yet.”

So far, voters in Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Sherman and Union counties have voted to require county commissioners to regularly discuss changing state borders.

Douglas County voters last week voted against a measure that would have authorized the county to spend money lobbying the state and federal governments to change the boundaries. Josephine County residents voted “no” to a question poised by county commissioners, who asked whether Josephine County and other rural counties should separate from Oregon. 

McCarter plans to submit signatures this week to put the question on Morrow County’s ballot. He’s close to having enough signatures to ask Wallowa voters, who rejected the idea once, to reconsider.


Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.