(Update: adding video, comments from recreator, Deschutes National Forest representative)
Goal is a forest more resilient to wildfire, insects and disease
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Beginning Thursday, more than 1,000 acres encompassing several trails on the Deschutes National Forest west of Bend will be closed on weekdays for the safety of forest users and timber operators doing timber harvesting and forest restoration work.
The trails within the Euro Stewardship contract area will be closed to all visitors, including all trail users, Forest Service officials said Wednesday.
The 1,034-acre Euro Stewardship contract area is located just west of Bend and is part of the West Bend Project, also located within the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration boundary.
Trail closures will occur on the following trails: Lower Whoops, Pine Drops, EXT, the northwest portion of Storm King from the junction with Forest Road 4615 and the junction with Phil’s Trail, and the western-most portion of Phil’s between the junction with EXT (near Forest Road 300) and its western terminus at the junction with Pine Drops, Upper and Lower Whoops and Skyliners trails.
Lauren Zacha, who hikes on Phil's Trail with her dog and family about three times a week, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday, "We'll be bummed. It's close to our home, and we utilize it quite frequently. But I'm happy to know that they're going to be taking care of the land."
Trail closures will be in place from Mondays beginning at 12 a.m. through Fridays until 3 p.m. Trails will be open to the public beginning Fridays at 3:01 p.m. through Sundays until 11:59 p.m. and all federal holidays.
Trail closures will remain in place until work is completed in the area. The public will be notified when the trails reopen. Forest Road 300 also is currently closed but will reopen once road reconstruction work has been completed.
At the moment, there is no timetable for when the project will end.
"It sounds really kind of wishy-washy to be like, 'Well, they could be there forever,'" Jana Johnson, the Deschutes National Forest's dispersed recreation team leader, said Wednesday. "That's not really the case. It's not in their best interest to be there forever. The contractors want to move as efficiently as they can to get their work done."
Euro Stewardship contract includes thinning of trees and mastication and/or mowing of brush and small trees. T2 Inc of Sweet Home was awarded the contract.
The primary objectives of this project are to help maintain and restore forest and ecosystem health and contribute wood products to the local and regional industry.
"What we're trying to do is restore the landscape to that more normal landscape regime of fire coming in, thinning out the brush on a somewhat regular basis, rather than the suppression efforts that we've had," Johnson said.
Through the thinning of trees and mastication of brush, followed by prescribed fire, "Euro Stewardship will help create a forest that is more resilient to fire, insect infestations and disease," the Forest Service said.
The project was developed in collaboration with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project and other stakeholders.
It's a stewardship project, Nelson-Dean said, "so there is both commercial timber and non-commercial timber being cut, with the goal being to restore the area to a more natural state, appropriate to a fire-adapted forest than its current overstocked state."
As for the Euro name for the project, Nelson-Dean explained that the agency names project areas for different, like things. So the West Bend projects are named for different kinds of money overseas, including Euro, Ruble and Peso.