The Oregon Department of Forestry will dedicate the Gilchrist State Forest in central Oregon – the first new state-owned forest created in almost 70 years – during a June 11 ceremony featuring Governor Ted Kulongoski.
The 43,000-acre forest is located about 45 miles south of Bend. It was part of nearly 300,000 acres once held by the now defunct timber company, Crown Pacific. Fidelity National Timber Resources, Inc. purchased all these former timberlands in 2006. Then, the state purchased the land from Fidelity last March, with $15 million in bonds approved by the 2009 legislature.
Fidelity National Timber also owns nearby Skyline Forest, a 33,000 forest that the Deschutes Land Trust is working to conserve. The Land Trust helped faciliate discussions between the Department of Forestry and Fidelity to create the new state forest.
The creation of the Gilchrist State Forest marks a big step forward in a multi-partner, multi-stage forest conservation strategy for Central Oregon. The Gilchrist lands, along with Skyline Forest, represent the last large blocks of forestland in central Oregon.
Conservation of these forests prevents their division into many small parcels, resulting in fragmented wildlife habitat, lost public access, and increased wildfire problems.
The Deschutes Land Trust hopes to purchase Skyline Forest and protect it as a community forest for wildlife, recreation, and sustainble forestry.