Skyline Forest is a 33,000-acre, privately owned, working forest in Deschutes County, one of the fastest growing areas of Oregon and the nation. Today, the forest is privately owned and managed for timber production, while still being actively used by the community and migratory wildlife. For more than 10 years, the community has repeatedly and consistently called for the forest to continue to be actively managed for timber production, along with abundant wildlife, community education, recreation and scenic views.
The vision includes a modest, but sustainable supply of logs going to area mills, while also allowing hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers to weave through healthy stands of Ponderosa pine. Mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk herds would continue wintering at lower elevations, while an essential migration corridor would remain intact. The forest could provide convenient access for college students studying the delicate balance of the ecosystem around them. Such a vision would avoid the siting of residential housing in a highly flammable forest. It also avoids fragmentation of big game winter range and migration corridors, as well as the loss of one of Central Oregon’s most cherished scenic views.
A Limited Resource; Countless Benefits
Skyline Forest has historically provided diverse ecological and economic services to surrounding communities including important wildlife habitat, timber harvest, milling jobs, educational opportunities and recreational sport and hunting trails. Whether as a nonprofit “community forest” or through the protection of a “working forest conservation easement,” Skyline Forest is a community-driven effort to avoid the subdivision and development of this vital natural resource. Conversion of this forestland for residential development would compromise significant public values, introducing homes into a highly flammable landscape, potentially putting lives at risk and at great cost to the public.
A Very Real Threat
In the summer of 2010 and again in the spring of 2014, Skyline Forest was badly damaged by fire. First, by the Rooster Rock Fire and subsequently, by the Two Bulls Fire, nearly a third of the forest was burned. In each case, public agencies successfully fought the blazes, but at tremendous cost to the public. Had the forest been developed with residences, the costs would have been substantially higher and lives potentially lost. Even the best-managed forests burn periodically and with the prospect of longer and dryer fire seasons, the costs and risks associated with subdividing our forests grows.
The Deschutes Land Trust has led a community-wide effort and remains committed to protecting Skyline Forest. Whether as a community forest or through the protection of a working forest conservation easement, the Deschutes Land Trust would ensure sustainable timber production, and protection of the forest’s ecological, scenic, educational and recreational values.
Hope for the Future
Across the country, working forests are being subdivided and lost to development. Yet, Deschutes Land Trust, working with the local community partners, hopes to protect Skyline Forest, saving it from such a fate. Managing a “working forest” means ensuring sustainable timber production, which provides a modest, but reliable source of logs for Central Oregon’s sole remaining timber mill. It also means maintaining a key wildlife migration corridor, intact winter range, recreational access and creating a unique educational resource for students and residents alike.
With communities across the Pacific Northwest seeking to purchase and manage forestland on behalf of the public, Skyline Community Forest would be among the most visible, demonstrating the value of forest management for community benefit and the power of voluntary, private land conservation. With the cooperation of the landowner, and the help of residents of Central Oregon, Deschutes Land Trust seeks to protect this land for the people and wildlife of this region for generations to come.