Skyline Forest after the fire

Jul 11, 2014
An update from executive director, Brad Chalfant, on the impacts of the Two Bulls fire on Skyline Forest.

Central Oregon witnessed an early start to the fire season with the eruption of the Two Bulls Fire on Saturday, June 7th. The fire started at two locations nearly simultaneously, one on the Deschutes National Forest and the other to the west on Skyline Forest. Crews successfully put out the blaze, but the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The fire burned across a wide swath of Skyline Forest, but the actual intensity and damage varied. A recent tour of Skyline Forest with the Oregon Department of Forestry and the landowner, Cascade Timberlands, revealed heavily burned areas where all the trees were lost, and parts where the forest survived. Much of the area around Bull Springs burned hot and few pines survived. Above Snag Springs the fire burned less intensely, leaving more live, green pines. Notably, the old Pine Tree Mill area was largely spared, though areas of the old Columbia Southern Canal, upstream of the mill site were burned.

Precisely how Skyline Forest will respond and recover remains to be seen. Early indications are that Cascade Timberlands may do at least some salvage logging of dead trees. While it's sad to see large sections of Skyline forest lost to fire, such events are a part of our eastern pine forests. Fortunately, no homes or lives were lost in the Two Bulls Fire and, if nothing else, it provided a loud wake up call about the dry state of our forests. While it may seem obvious, those of us who recreate in the forests and grasslands need to take extra caution when visiting our favorite areas. Vehicles parked off road in dry grass run a very real risk of initiating the next Two Bulls Fire, so please be extremely careful.

For the time being, we're also strongly urging the curious to avoid visiting the burned portions of Skyline Forest. The potential for injury from falling trees and unstable ground means that the Forest isn't currently a safe place to visit. Cascade Timberlands has authorized the Land Trust to continue hikes on northern portions of the Forest, but all hikes in the Bull Springs area have been cancelled. The impacts of the fire on the landowner’s plans and our efforts to assemble a transaction are unclear at this time. However, Skyline Forest remains critically important for wildlife habitat, scenic views and the future of recreation in Central Oregon. For those reasons, the Deschutes Land Trust will continue working to permanently conserve Skyline Forest.