By Brad Chalfant
For those of you who've been watching the news of late, you've probably heard that Central Oregon's 33,000 acre Skyline Forest has a new owner and, no, it's not the Deschutes Land Trust. However, as startling as that news may be for some, the Land Trust actually views the change in ownership as a potentially beneficial turn of events.
The previous owner, Fidelity National Financial, had long indicated a preference to sell all of their scattered timberland properties as a single package of 197,000 acres, rather than in separate transactions. Unfortunately, the inherently speculative nature of development values which Fidelity associated with Skyline further complicated the transaction. Consequently, our efforts to negotiate an economically sound acquisition had stalled. As a result and given our long-term perspective, the new ownership presents a new opportunity.
Currently we don't know a great deal about the new owners or their investment objectives and expectations. According to Fidelity's press release, the new owner, Whitefish Cascade Timber Resources is based in Singapore and recently registered to do business here in Oregon. While we've not yet had high level contact with Whitefish Cascade, we have heard from their local forester that, for the time being, they intend to continue managing as Fidelity had done previously. This includes continuing to allow the Deschutes Land Trust to lead guided hikes and bike rides in Skyline Forest. Check our events page on April 1st to see our lineup of Walks + Hikes at Skyline Forest.
Be assured that the Deschutes Land Trust remains fully committed to the permanent preservation of Skyline Forest for its wildlife, scenic views, timber resources, and its remarkable recreational and educational potential. We've always expected Skyline to be a marathon, not a sprint. While the new owners will likely need some time to fully evaluate their new timberlands, we'll be reaching out in the near future to share Central Oregon's interest in the permanent protection of Skyline Forest and our commitment to work toward that vision.