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Crook County to classify forestland

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - At the first meeting of the Forestland Classification Committee for Crook County on Oct. 18 in Prineville, the Oregon Department of Forestry will present an overview of the legal requirements for forestland classification and how the outcomes of this process may affect forest landowners in Crook County.

The meeting will be held on the COCC Open Campus starting at 6 p.m. It is open to the public. Following the overview, the committee will select officers and establish by-laws.

 The Forestland Classification Committee is tasked with studying lands in Crook County to determine which meet the definition of forestland as described in Oregon law.

Lands determined to be forestlands are assigned a classification based on their productivity. This information is used to determine where ODF is required to provide wildland fire protection, and to determine which lands are subject to an annual forest patrol assessment. For private landowners, this assessment is included in their annual property tax statement.

This will be the first time in over 30 years that such classification work has been done in Crook County.

The forestland classification process is intended to be open and transparent. All of the committee meetings will be advertised by public notice and are open to the public. Time will be provided at each meeting for the committee to hear public comment.

According to George Ponte, District Forester of ODF's Central Oregon District, the owners of lands classified as forestland help pay for the protection of those lands from wildfire. The state's General Fund pays the other share of those costs.

"Funding of wildland fire protection of private lands in Oregon is a public-private partnership that is unique to the state," he said. "The classification process is intended to ensure that those who should be contributing to the system are doing so, and conversely that those who shouldn't are not."

 There are about 169,000 acres in Crook County currently classified as forestland, and the owners of those lands already pay the annual forest patrol assessment. Ponte anticipates that there will not be a significant change in that number, but it may increase or decrease depending on the work of the committee.

 More information may be obtained from the ODF office in Prineville by calling (541) 447-5658.

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