BEND, Ore. -

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project is gathering input from the public on a 17,430-acre area west of Tumalo Falls that has been highly valued by Central Oregonians for decades, by hosting an open house on Thursday, June 20, from 4:00 to 7:30 pm at the Deschutes County Services Building at 1300 NW Wall Street, Bend.

The area, named the Drink Planning Area by the U.S. Forest Service, lies between Tumalo Falls and Todd Lake, and includes the Bend municipal watershed, Tumalo Mountain, and other recreational areas west of Bend. Popular trails, including North Fork Tumalo, Metolius-Windigo, Flagline, and South Fork Tumalo, cross the area.

DCFP will use the public’s input to help form their recommendations to the Deschutes National Forest as the forest initiates its planning process for this important area. The forest has committed to incorporate the advice and recommendations of the DCFP to the maximum extent possible.

“The collaborative relationship between DCFP and the Forest Service represents an exciting evolution of the relationship between the community and the Forest Service,” said Alan Unger, chairman of the DCFP Steering Committee and member of the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners. “The Drink process is unique, because it is beginning from the public’s values and concerns, instead of with a proposal from the Forest Service for the public to react to.”

"We are looking forward to hearing what the public has to say about this important place," said Kevin Larkin, District Ranger for the Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest. “We will incorporate the information we gather at this phase into our proposed action and future analysis.”

The DCFP is encouraging public participation starting now in this early planning process. This includes the June 20 public meeting, as well as monthly Restoration Planning Sub-Committee meetings that will start in July.

“This process is open and inclusive of anyone who wants to participate,” said Ruth Williamson, DCFP Steering Committee member who represents recreation interests. “Anyone who becomes involved now will be engaged early enough in the process to make a real difference.”

“This is an extraordinary place that people in Central Oregon have treasured for generations,” added Dave Stowe, Sierra Club representative to the DCFP Restoration Planning Sub-Committee. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference in this special place.”

People unable to attend the meeting are encouraged to submit their input by going to http://goo.gl/7giKh. While comments received will not be counted as “votes,” each public comment is very important and will inform both the National Forest and the DCFP Restoration Planning Sub-Committee meetings.

The Drink project, though in the same area of the forest, is separate from the City of Bend Surface Water Improvement Project.

For more information on the Drink project and to sign up to become involved, please contact Mary Orton at 702.210-9642 or Mary@MaryOrton.com. To find out more about the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, please visit www.deschutescollaborativeforest.org.

DCFP’s mission is to develop forest management recommendations through collaborative efforts involving a wide range of stakeholders, and provide them to the Forest Service for consideration and implementation on multiple projects across this landscape, without litigation.

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest encompasses 145,000 acres between the Cascade Lakes highway and Black Butte to the west of the communities of Bend, Tumalo, and Sisters, Oregon. Of those acres, 110,000 are on the Deschutes National Forest and 35,000 are privately owned, including the 33,000-acre Bull Springs Tree Farm.