Although 90 percent of Lane County is forestland, Eugene and Springfield comprise the second largest urban area in Oregon. The Forest Service is landlord of 48% of the lands within the county boundaries.
Historically, Lane County's economy has been based on timber and agriculture. Timber is important because the county's extensive acerage in timber. Agriculture is important because of the fertile soil and moderate climate that exists in the Willamette Valley, making this valley one of the most productive farming areas in the nation. However, with the reductions in timber harvesting, and the continued pressure of population growth on many agricultural areas, these have become less important in the economic development of the county.
Growth in the next decades is predicted to shift away from these two pursuits to services, manufacturing of transportation equipment, printing and publishing, and high technology. A major manufacturer of recreation vehicles, Monaco Coach, is headquartered in Coburg, and operates one of four manufacturing plants there. Another major economic asset is the University of Oregon in Eugene. Lastly, with access to the mountains and the coast, tourism makes a noticeable contribution to the county's economy.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 12,229 km² (4,722 mi²). 11,795 km² (4,554 mi²) of it is land and 435 km² (168 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.55% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 322,959 people, 130,453 households, and 82,185 families residing in the county. The population density is 27/km² (71/mi²). There are 138,946 housing units at an average density of 12/km² (30/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 90.64% White, 0.78% Black or African American, 1.13% Native American, 2.00% Asian, 0.19% Pacific Islander, 1.95% from other races, and 3.32% from two or more races. 4.61% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 130,453 households out of which 28.50% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.90% are married couples living together, 10.00% have a female householder with no husband present, and 37.00% are non-families. 26.60% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.10% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.42 and the average family size is 2.92.
In the county, the population is spread out with 22.90% under the age of 18, 12.00% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 13.30% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 96.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 94.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county is $36,942, and the median income for a family is $45,111. Males have a median income of $34,358 versus $25,103 for females. The per capita income for the county is $19,681. 14.40% of the population and 9.00% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 16.10% are under the age of 18 and 7.50% are 65 or older.
Lane County was established on January 29, 1851. It was created from the southern part of Linn County and the portion of Benton County east of Umpqua County. Originally it covered all of southern Oregon east to the Rocky Mountains and south to the California border. When the Territorial Legislature created Lane County, it did not designate a county seat. In the 1853 election four sites competed for the designation, of which the "Mulligan donation" received a majority vote; however, since it was contiguous to the "Skinner claim" both became part of the new county seat known as Eugene.
It has been vastly reduced from its original size by several boundary changes. One of the first changes gave it access to the Pacific Ocean when it acquired the northern part of Umpqua County in 1853. With the creation of Wasco County in 1854, it lost all of its territory east of the Cascade Mountains. Minor boundary changes occurred with Douglas County in 1852, 1885, 1903, 1915, and 1917; with Linn County in 1907; and with Benton County in 1923.