While much of the Two Bulls Fire has burned on private, state Department of Forestry-protected land, it's also tearing through part of a proposed "community forest" known as Skyline Forest.
The Deschutes Land Trust has been shepherding the proposal through a nearly decade-long process so far. Executive Director Brad Chalfant said Monday it's "way too early to know" the impact of the wildfire on those efforts.
"It involves a lot of different issues," Chalfant said. "That said, burned or not, the property holds immense value for the community, and we're committed to doing everything we can to conserve it."
Here's a news release issued by the land trust late Monday afternoon about the project and the fire's impacts.
Like all of Central Oregon, the Deschutes Land Trust has continued to watch with concern as the Two Bulls Fire races through private property west of Bend known as Skyline Forest.
The Land Trust has worked since 2005 to protect Skyline Forest with the hope that we would one day purchase it to create a community forest. Towards that end, hundreds of Central Oregonians have joined the Land Trust on guided hikes and bike rides in Skyline Forest.
Skyline Forest is a 33,000 acre privately-owned forest between Bend and Sisters. Its forested foothills provide the backdrop for much of Central Oregon's scenic view of the Cascades. For generations, a succession of private timber companies has allowed broad public access to the forest. As timber companies have struggled, many of these commercial forests have been broken up and converted to subdivisions.
"Fires are a fact of life for forests, particularly when conditions are this dry. Fortunately, Cascade Timberlands has done a lot of thinning on Skyline Forest and we're all hoping for the best," noted the Land Trust’s executive director. Brad Chalfant.
An immediate casualty of the fire was the FootZone's annual Dirty Half Marathon, which had been scheduled for Sunday, June 8th, but was canceled due to the fire.
Ironically, the Dirty Half serves as the Deschutes Land Trust's single largest fundraising event and has helped the Land Trust continue its work to conserve the forest.
The Land Trust is in discussions with the FootZone concerning the possibility of rescheduling the race. Please check the FootZone’s Facebook Page for the most current status of the Dirty Half.
The Deschutes Land Trust also announced that it has suspended the majority of scheduled hikes and rides in Skyline Forest.
"Over the past decade, we've seen tremendous interest in Skyline Forest and this fire will only increase that interest. However, future tours are dependent upon the landowner's continued willingness to allow them, and on the forest once again being a safe place to visit. For now, our thoughts are with the fire crews and those whose homes are threatened by the fire," added Chalfant.
The Deschutes Land Trust has worked for nearly a decade to build community support and develop a transaction that would allow the Land Trust to purchase the Skyline Forest. The Deschutes Land Trust remains committed to acquiring and protecting this important forest, along with its wildlife habitat, scenic views, and educational and recreational opportunities.
The Deschutes Land Trust conserves land for wildlife, scenic views, and local communities. As Central Oregon’s only nationally accredited and locally-based land trust, the Deschutes Land Trust has protected more than 8,200 acres since 1995. For more information on Deschutes Land Trust, contact us at (541) 330-0017 or visit www.deschuteslandtrust.org.