SALEM, Ore. -

The Oregon Board of Forestry approved completion of the multi-year Gilchrist State Forest acquisition on Wednesday, adding nearly 29,000 acres to the Central Oregon forest.

"Today's action by the Board realizes a six-year vision for establishing a state forest in Central Oregon to provide social, economic and environmental benefits for generations," said Doug Decker, Oregon state forester.

"Our management activity there in the last several years has made these young forests more fire-safe and more resilient--while providing a revenue stream for Klamath County -- and has put them on a pathway back to being the Ponderosa pine gem of central Oregon that they were under the Gilchrist family," Decker added.

"Credit is due to our partner The Conservation Fund for their ability to help us put this acquisition together, and to the Gilchrist-Crescent community for welcoming the Oregon Department of Forestry as its new neighbor."

The tract, located in northern Klamath County south of Bend, was managed sustainably by the former Gilchrist Timber Co. for most of the last century.

With subsequent ownership changes, it came under increased risk of fragmentation and decreasing forest values prior to its 2010 dedication as the first new Oregon state forest in more than 60 years.

The board's action Wednesday gives the green light for the Department of Forestry to complete the acquisition process, purchasing nearly 28,800 acres with $10 million in bonds authorized by the Oregon Legislature and funding received through the federal Forest Legacy Program.

The forestland will be purchased incrementally over the next two years, with initial purchases possible as early as April.

These final acquisitions will increase the total size of the Gilchrist to approximately 72,200 acres.

Throughout, ODF has worked closely with The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit land conservancy, which acquired and held the lands until the state could purchase them, and has been instrumental in identifying funding sources.

The Gilchrist is managed for a range of benefits including timber production, revenue to support local public services, wildlife habitat and recreation.

The state's management of the Gilchrist has already returned more than $300,000 to Klamath County and resulted in a significant reduction of flammable forest fuels, while also providing opportunities for the local economy.

For more information on the Gilchrist State Forest, please visit: http://www.oregon.gov/odf/pages/state_forests/gilchrist.aspx

For more information on the acquisition process, please visit: http://www.oregon.gov/odf/Pages/state_forests/gilchristacquisition.aspx