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Forestry board approves acquiring new state forestland in Central Oregon
February 10, 2010
Contact - Doug Decker, Project Leader (503) 701-0236
The Oregon Board of Forestry Wednesday approved the purchase of 43,000 acres of forestland in Central Oregon as a first step in a long-range effort to acquire nearly 100,000 acres of nearby land. This purchase will create the first new state forest in about 70 years.
State officials had initially hoped to buy an additional 25,000 acres immediately to the east, but public financing is not currently available. The department is working with a non-profit conservation group – The Conservation Fund – which is purchasing those lands until future state purchases are possible.
“This is truly a historic moment,” board chair John Blackwell said. “We’ve assured that this land remains in forest use, providing a whole range of benefits for future generations. That’s especially important these days, when we’re facing permanent loss of forestland to development and other uses.”
The tract is 50 miles south of Bend in northern Klamath County, east of Highway 97 near the community of Gilchrist. The purchase is financed with $15 million in bonds approved by the 2009 legislature with support from Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The bonds will be repaid over 20 years with proceeds from the Oregon Lottery.
“Oregon’s working forests are as much a part of our legacy as they are our future. They continue to benefit our economy and our environment," Kulongoski said. "I am heartened by this opportunity to preserve that legacy for future generations.”
The state is purchasing the property from Fidelity National Timber Resources, Inc., which has owned it since 2006. “This is a good outcome for all parties involved,” said Nancy Craven of Fidelity.
The property is part of larger holdings owned by the Gilchrist Timber Company for most of the 20th century. The community of Gilchrist was a “company town,” the site of the company mill and home to many of its workers.
The Gilchrist family sold the property and mill in 1991 to Crown Pacific, which liquidated the forest to pay debt and eventually entered bankruptcy in 2003. The land, which once supported expanses of large Ponderosa pine trees, was heavily harvested in the early 1990s, following the Gilchrist Timber Company sale. The land was replanted as required by Oregon’s Forest Practices Act, and is now stocked with trees about 20 years old.
It will be several decades before the forest will be able to provide timber sale revenue to Klamath County to support local services. In the meantime, the state Department of Forestry will manage it to restore the densely packed young stands and to create a forest that eventually provides many benefits, including diverse wildlife habitat, ongoing flows of clean water, and recreation opportunities, in addition to forest products and revenues.
Eventually, revenue also may come from “carbon credits,” paid to forest owners for their value in absorbing gasses associated with global warming.
“Without this action today, this land may have faced a dramatically different future,” State Forester Marvin Brown said.
Years away from providing revenue from timber harvest, the land was not a likely purchase prospect for forestland investors. It most likely would have been divided into many smaller parcels, with a scattering of homes and other development. This would have increased fire danger while severely limiting larger scale management for wildlife habitat, public recreation opportunities and other benefits.
In addition to the Gilchrist lands, the Department of Forestry manages 781,000 acres of forestland, about 3 percent of Oregon’s forests. This includes the Tillamook State Forest, restored under state ownership after severe fires in the mid-20th century, and the Elliott State Forest. The Elliott is owned by the State Land Board – the governor, state treasurer and secretary of state – and managed by ODF under contract.
The newest state forest, the Sun Pass State Forest just south of Crater Lake, was acquired between 1943 and 1948.
Brown said the Gilchrist acquisition reflects the work and support of many people and groups, including the legislature, the governor, Fidelity and Klamath County commissioners.
Maps and other information about the Gilchrist acquisition