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. (Scroll down for a map of the fire and Skyline Forest or download a map.) 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.
For those of you that know Skyline Forest, the fire is burning in the Bull and Snag Springs areas, as well as many of our mountain biking trails. (See the map.) However, our contacts at the Oregon Department of Forestry tell us that the fire is patchy burning very hot in some areas and less so in others. This gives us hope that the fire may not burn those areas completely. Only time will tell.
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 Brad Chalfant.
As for how this fire will impact the Land Trust's discussions with the landowner, it is really too early to say. Burned or not, Skyline Forest remains incredibly important to Central Oregon. The Land Trust has worked for nearly a decade to build community support and develop a transaction that would allow the purchase and protection of 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.
For more information:
- on the Land Trust’s guided hikes
- on the Land Trust's efforts to acquire Skyline Forest.
- More information on the Two Bulls Fire.
- Attend the June 19th panel discussion on Wildfire in our Community.
- Land Trust maps of the fire: