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Bend's Skyline Forest Community Forest Authority created by Commissioners!
Note: A crowd of over 200 supporters filled the Deschutes
County Commissioner's Hearing Room on December 21, 2005. Several supporters of
the Skyline Forest spoke including Steve Fitzgerald, and the Community Forest
Authority was created. We will continue to cover the Skyline Forest conservation opportunity.
Our Calendar of interesting events for December, 2005:
Wednesday, December 21, 2005, 4PM, Skyline Forest Update Free before the
Deschutes County Commissioners at 1300 NW Wall Street, Bend
This is a public hearing for the Community Forest Authority, the primary funding source for purchasing Skyline Forest. Now is your chance! Show the County Commissioners how important creating Skyline Forest is for our community by attending the hearing. In the interim, write letters to the editor, talk to your neighbors and friends, do whatever you can to show that you want Skyline Forest protected. The more support County Commissioners see for this project, the more likely they will be to support the creation of the Community Forest Authority. For information about the Skyline Forest click: Deschutes Basin Land Trust.
Brad Chalfant comments on Central Oregon's Skyline Forest opportunity
Per our conversation this afternoon, I'm forwarding some information regarding the Skyline Forest project. This is undoubtedly the most significant conservation project that the Bend/Sisters area is likely to ever face. At roughly 33,000 acres, this in-holding in the Deschutes National Forest has tremendous implications for the future of one of Oregon's largest mule deer herds, the potential to provide truly incredible trail opportunities, is a critical part of our view of the Three Sisters Mountains and can serve as an important example of sustainable forestry. This will easily be the largest community forest in the northwest and is critical to the future of Central Oregon. As we discussed, the Deschutes Basin Land Trust is raising funds to underwrite the costs of putting this transaction together (as opposed to the purchase itself, which will largely come from the community forest bonds and other resources). I've attached some information on the project and our website www.deschuteslandtrust.org contains additional information. Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call me. Thanks again for your offer of assistance.
Brad Chalfant, Executive Director
The Deschutes Basin Land Trust
760 NW Harriman St., Suite 100, Bend, Oregon 97701
"Lands in Trust, Protected Forever"
Steve Fitzgerald’s Comments on the Skyline Forest Proposal
My name is Stephen Fitzgerald. I’m
the Extension Silviculture and Wildland Fire Education Specialist with the
Oregon State University Extension Forestry Program. I speak to you today as a
private citizen, forestry expert, and long-time professional forestry educator.
I’d like to make a few comments regarding the Skyline Forest proposal by the Deschutes Basin Land Trust and creating the local Community Forest Authority to make this happen.
The issue of maintaining working forests is an important issue to us locally and to the state of Oregon. Over the last decade or so, I have seen large blocks of forest land sold, logged, and resold, often with little merchantable timber left to provide sustainable income to the new owner or local communities. Often times the new owners of the cut-over land have deep financial pockets, so timber income is not always essential to them in the short run. They have bought these lands, perhaps, to speculate for potential development.
This can have many negative effects including:
• loss of future timber harvest because these parcels have often been over cut – called “highgrading”—and it takes a long time to rebuild the forest growing stock on the land;
• increase opportunity for wildfire ignitions if the land is subdivided and homes placed on the land;
• if developed for rural home sites, increased fire-fighting costs to protect homes in the wildland-urban interface;
• fragmentation of forest and important wildlife habitat;
• impacts to water and watersheds;
• and, generally, a reduction in overall future management because when large blocks of forest land are broken up and sold into smaller parcels, the new landowners are less likely to actively manage it because new owners often view it as their own preserve or get away, not recognizing that forests grow and change over time and can become susceptible to insects, disease and wildfire without some form of active management.
I formerly served on the Governor’s Eastside Forest Advisory Panel, along with Representative Chuck Burley, author of the House Bill 2729 that allows for the creation of Community Forest Authorities. The topic of maintaining “working forests” was one that often came before us; it was one we wrestled with but could never came to any agreement on what the solution should be. I think the enabling legislation by Representative Burley is a solution, in part, to this dilemma and provides an opportunity for communities to get actively involve and have a stake in forests that adjacent to their communities.
So what are the benefits? The Skyline Forest proposal has several benefits in my view:
• It would maintain a large block of working forests. That is, the site would need to be managed and harvest conducted to pay the debt. This provides timber, jobs, and income to the local community. (At a growth rate of 100 board feet per acre per year, I estimate that the forest, in the long run, could produce 3.3 million board feet annually, maybe more; although timber harvests would be initially lower than this figure to allow for the growing stock to rebuild over time.)
• Active management would help preserve the health of the forest and minimize the potential for wildfire.
• It would prevent the urbanization of forest land and stop the steady creep of the wildland-urban interface and avoid the added cost of protecting structures out there.
• It would prevent the fragmentation of this large block of forestland so as to maintain it for important and effective wildlife habitat and protect watershed values.
• Provide opportunities for community recreation in a well managed “working forest.”
• There are abundant opportunities for community education on environmental issues for the public and school children as well a unique opportunity to conduct research on sustainable forest management.
• It will serve as a model or showpiece, if you will, of a sustainable community forest – sustaining not just timber, but all values from the land.
Finally, that people move to central Oregon because of the environment and how that environment – the rivers, mountains, and forests— contribute to our quality of life. And given the surge in widespread development in central Oregon in the last decade, I see the Skyline Forest proposal as essential for sustaining that quality of life for generations to come while preserving a little of past.
--Thank you, Stephen Fitzgerald
County creates first ever Community Forest Authority for Skyline Forest!
For Immediate Release
Date: December 22, 2005
Brad Chalfant, Deschutes Basin Land Trust, (541) 330-0017
County creates first ever Community Forest Authority for Skyline Forest
Bend, OR – In a strong show of support, the
Deschutes County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night to create the
country’s first Community Forest Authority (CFA) in anticipation of a community
bid to purchase Skyline Forest—a 33,000 acre tree farm near Bend. The approval
marks a critical way point in the Deschutes Basin Land Trust’s effort to acquire
and conserve Skyline Forest, as the CFA will provide the bulk of the funding for
such a large land acquisition.
Nearly 200 local citizens came to the hearing to testify and show their support. Gary Fish, owner of Deschutes Brewery, commented that “Central Oregon has always led with creative and innovative solutions to livability and economic issues. This is one more example. The community knows that the best way to save Skyline Forest is to buy it. And for this parcel to be able to pay for its own cost is truly remarkable. How wonderful to live in a community where big ideas are embraced and successfully pursued.” Fish’s sentiments were echoed throughout the hearing by those testifying.
Community Forest Authority represents a unique and innovative private/public partnership for conserving working forests. CFAs are quasi-municipal corporations that can work with a non-profit to issue bonds to buy local timberlands and keep them in sustainable timber production. The bonds are repaid with revenues from sustainable timber harvest, so there is no cost or risk to taxpayers.
Brad Chalfant, executive director of the Deschutes Basin Land Trust remarked, “this was huge! On a cold, wet night, nearly 200 people skipped Christmas parties and shopping to come out and ask the Commissioners to help create a legacy for our kids. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the community is really behind this.”
Deschutes County is the first to use the landmark legislation that enabled the creation of CFAs in Oregon. State Representative Chuck Burley (R-Bend) worked with a bi-partisan group of legislators to introduce and enact the legislation this summer. The CFA model charts a new course for conserving working forests in Oregon. More than 2600 local citizens requested the CFA hearing in an effort to conserve Skyline Forest.
Skyline Forest would be the Northwest’s largest community forest devoted to sustainable production of forest products, jobs, wildlife, scenic views, science classes and trails. The Land Trust expects the former Bull Springs tree farm to come on the market in early 2006 and anticipates that the Community Forest Authority bonds will provide a significant portion of the funding for such an acquisition.
The Deschutes Basin Land Trust has been preserving land for habitat, scenic views, and recreation since 1995. By working cooperatively with private landowners and local communities, the Land Trust acquires land or development rights to help conserve and protect the Deschutes Basin’s natural heritage and open space. Since its founding, the Land Trust has protected more than 5,500 acres in the Deschutes Basin.
The Deschutes Basin Land Trust – “Lands in Trust, Protected Forever”
Skyline Preservation: Land Trust
works towards record conservation deal
Skyline Preservation: Land Trust works towards record
The Source Weekly
By Erik Kancler
On Nov. 7, the Bend-based Deschutes Basin Land Trust took another step in its efforts to acquire the 33,000-acre Skyline Forest when it handed in 2,700 signatures to the County Board of Commissioners.
Located west of Bend and Tumalo, south of Sisters, and making up the tree-filled foreground of the view toward the Cascades, Skyline Forest--officially known as the Bull Springs Tree Farm--is one of the largest privately owned tree farms in the county. In addition to providing critical wintering habitat for Oregon's largest herd of mule deer, the land is considered essential by both conservationists and timber interests to the management of local wildlife and natural resources.
As a result of bankruptcy proceedings in 2004, Crown Pacific Corp. forfeited Skyline Forest--along with over half a million acres elsewhere in the Northwest--to its creditor, Cascade Timberlands, LLC., which plans to sell it off and retrieve as much of its investment as possible. Although it has yet to announce plans for a sale of the Bull Run tract, it's already unloaded 82,000 acres of tree farms in Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and interested parties believe that the sale of its Oregon properties, which in addition to Skyline Forest includes 260,000 acres near Gilchrist, is likely to happen soon, perhaps early next year.
Before last July, when legislation sponsored by State Rep. Chuck Burley (R-Bend) passed through Oregon's legislature, the purchase of Skyline Forest by a land trust would have been an impossibility. Burley's bill (HB 2729) gave municipalities the right to form entities called Community Forest Authorities with the power to issue revenue bonds to acquire forest lands and keep them in active timber production.
"Forest authorities give communities an opportunity to get in the game," said Burley. Although municipalities could issue bonds themselves, that would pose considerable financial risk should something go wrong--a risk that many aren't willing to take. Given the unlikelihood that a local land trust could raise enough capital to buy a property like Skyline Forest, forest authorities provide a much-needed means of competition.
Burley's legislation specifies that before an authority can be formed, a land trust must demonstrate strong community support for the undertaking--that's why the Deschutes Basin Land Trust gathered the signatures. Yet, while waiting over six weeks to collect and present them, the Land Trust has found that some of the community support had turned into criticism.
Brad Chalfant, the trust's executive director, argues that handing them in earlier would have been premature. "I was a county employee for eight years, so I have a good idea what sets things off down there. The commissioners lean pretty hard on their staff for advice, and we had to make sure all their concerns were addressed."
Most importantly, the land trust has worked to convince staff that should the Community Forest Authority managing Skyline Forest get into financial trouble, the county would have no liability. They've also worked to convince them that such a situation would not harm the county's strong credit rating, which could impact its ability to secure municipal bonds in the future.
According to Deschutes County Treasurer Marty Wynne, "This has never been done before, so it's hard to know how it's going to be structured. As the process continues, we'll be looking critically at the details. [And] if we find out that the county is liable in any way, this won't get approved."
But Chalfant feels that an agreement is within reach. "Everyone involved seems comfortable with what they've seen thus far, and I'm confident that should such risks arise we'll find ways to deal with them."
With the petitions now in, and county staff seemingly on board, the fate of the forest authority lies in the hands of the county commissioners, who have indicated that a public hearing would likely be scheduled for December.
But while the formation of what would be Oregon's first forest authority would move things forward, it's only a small piece of the picture, and by no means guarantees that the land trust will get a fair shot at the property, much less wind up with it in the end.
The next challenge, according to Chalfant, will be to put together a competitive business plan strong enough that bond counsel, bond insurance agencies and creditors would be willing to sign off on it and issue the bonds, at which point they could finally play ball.
Were the land trust to find itself competing with traditional timber companies, a solid timber-based business plan ought to put them in contention. Yet, Chalfant, Burley and others believe that because Bend is an area of high growth, developers, not timber companies, will set the land's value.
Although Skyline Forest has only a few legal lots of record zoned prime forest land and so far is off-limits to destination resort development, the county currently is considering increasing its "destination resort overlay zone," so it's not inconceivable that developers may be eyeing the tract as a potential resort site.
And even if regulatory barriers--not to mention the public outcry such projects would bring--cause developers to bow out, the land trust would still face another formidable competitor: Timber Investment Management Organizations, or "TIMOs.
Run by financial institutions, TIMOs generally ramp up timber production and squeeze profit margins to levels high enough to appeal to investors, clearing tree farms in a decade or less, and then selling the land to anyone who can find leftover value in the treeless forests.
While this may be profitable for TIMOs and their investors, wholesale clear-cutting can leave mills without sufficient lumber to sustain their operation. According to Chalfant, when the mills close, logging for commercial purposes as well as for fire protection and habitat restoration is left for dead, as hauling lumber to mills as far as Klamath Falls is prohibitively expensive.
Perhaps this is why timber advocates such as Burley and conservationists such as Chalfant see eye-to-eye on this. Both view sustainable logging through community forest authorities as the single means by which they can compete with TIMOs and developers.
Yet, in a strange twist, TIMOs may create an opportunity for the land trust to compete with development interests. According to Chalfant, it's possible that Cascade Timberlands will put its entire 295,000 acres of Central Oregon timberland up for sale in a block, in which case the land trust just couldn't compete. If developers aren't interested in outbidding TIMOs for land largely devoid of development potential, a TIMO could decide to sell the Skyline Forest to the land trust for a profit rather than wading through years of uncertain timber markets and, once the timber is gone, a chancy real estate market.
Chalfant claims he's already been approached by TIMOs interested in pursuing this scenario, and while this wouldn't be his first choice, if Cascade Timberlands decides to sell the whole farm, he may have to count on a TIMO to buy it.
Chalfant and his team still have a long road ahead of them, with competition and scrutiny at every turn, and an outcome that's far from certain. "Our focus is on creating a dynamic that allows different strategies to come into play," he says. "And if the land trust isn't the successful bidder," he continues, "I'm confident that whoever does win will come to us with some options."
Royal Robbins speaks about "40 Years of Adventure, First Ascents and First Descents"
"ROYAL ROBBINS: 40 YEARS OF ADVENTURE, First Ascents and First Descents"
Robbins is one of the most influential American climbers of the twentieth century. With one hand on the climbing rope and the other grasping the hand of his wife and adventure partner, Liz, Robbins revolutionized climbing by pioneering what was thought of as the impossible. With first ascents in Yosemite and Europe in the 1960s and 70s, he defined a new era of mountaineering where the sky was the limit — or no longer the limit — for the climbing culture.
Robbins was also named one of many "paddlers of the century" in Paddler magazine's January/February 2000 issue. He made the switch from pioneering ascents to pioneering descents as he mastered rivers over rock, after arthritis limited his climbing. He has made 30 descents in California and Chile and more recently, he has run rivers in Norway and Russia, being among the first Westerners to visit a remote section of Siberia to run the Bashkaus River.
In the late 1960's Robbins and his wife, Liz, started their business named "Royal Robbins." The company continues to do incredibly well today, primarily selling clothing for outdoor enthusiasts. Always active environmentally, Robbins and Liz stepped up efforts made by their company toward planetary stewardship.
Robbins tours the country yearly, presenting his "Forty Years of Adventure" slide program and donating the proceeds, now amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, to worthy conservation groups such as the Yosemite Fund, the American Hiking Society, and the Access Fund.
He is the author of the classics "Basic Rockcraft" and "Advanced Rockcraft". His biography, "Royal Robbins - Spirit of the Age", by climbing author Pat Ament, was published in October 1992.
A joint venture between Tower Theatre Foundation and TraditionalMountaineering.org, the net proceeds will be donated to the Deschutes Basin Land Trust’s Skyline Forest project. Skyline Forest is a 33,000 acre working forest between Bend and Sisters that the Land Trust hopes to acquire and conserve. The Deschutes Basin Land Trust has been preserving land for wildlife, scenic views, and recreation since 1995. Learn more at www.deschuteslandtrust.org
Tickets will go on sale February 6, on-line at www.towertheatre.org or at the Tower Theatre box office, open Monday - Friday 11.30 - 4.30 pm
Ticket prices are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.
More about Royal Robbins
Read more . . .
Deschutes Basin Land Trust
Map of Skyline Forest between Bend and Sisters
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