Central Oregon LandWatch launches 'Save Skyline Forest' effort
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Nearly three years after the daunting $127 million asking price was set for a vast 33,000-acre forest west of Bend - bigger than the city itself -- it's still on the market, so a land-use watchdog group, worried about its potential development, is launching a community effort to "Save Skyline Forest."
The historic Bull Springs Skyline Forest tree farm, among the largest contiguous parcels in the West and a prized piece of Bend's mountain-peaked "viewshed," went up for sale in late 2019 in a public offering. But whether due to the pandemic's impacts an/or other factors, it hasn't found a buyer.
The campaign launched Thursday, like so many, is more about public awareness about the situation and the development concerns, at this point. But can that awareness lead to a successful effort to preserve the forest in its current state, what with the daunting price tag and the region's rapid growth (including zooming land prices)?
Central Oregon LandWatch thinks so.
"The goal of the Save Skyline Forest campaign is to find a permanent conservation solution for this beloved area," Caitlyn Burford, the group's communications and outreach manager, told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.
"We know that could look a number of different ways," Burford said. "The first step of this campaign is to raise awareness of and appreciation for Skyline Forest throughout the community, dissuade potential large-scale luxury development interests, and work with the current owner to pursue a viable conservation-focused acquisition option."
Here's the rest of the LandWatch news release on its new conservation campaign:
Skyline Forest is an expansive landscape covering 50 square miles west of Bend and Sisters. This beloved forestland provides essential benefits for wildlife, water, wildfire security, and nearby access to the outdoors for residents and visitors alike. Given its proximity to the Deschutes National Forest and its history of public access for recreation granted by private owners, many Central Oregonians assume this vast area is public land.
Conversely, Skyline Forest is up for sale. This 33,000-acre forest is privately owned and was listed on the market in 2019 for $127 million. Central Oregon LandWatch, concerned about the future of this beloved forest, is organizing a community conservation effort to Save Skyline Forest.
“If we want to ensure Skyline Forest remains a cherished piece of our landscape and does not fall prey to large-scale luxury development, the time to act is now,” says Executive Director Ben Gordon.
The effort to Save Skyline Forest has been nearly two decades in the making, and Central Oregonians from all walks of life want to see Skyline Forest protected. According to a 2022 survey from Public Policy Polling, 3 in 4 Bend and Sisters residents support protecting Skyline Forest regardless of age, political affiliation, or how long they have lived in the area.
The Save Skyline Forest campaign aims to permanently conserve this area for wildlife, wildfire security, water quality, and recreation.
Often referred to as “Bend and Sisters’ backyard,” this vast, intact forestland provides essential wildlife habitat for our region’s iconic mule deer and elk. In fact, according to Public Policy Polling, 86% of Bend and Sisters residents are concerned about development in Skyline Forest harming wildlife habitat. Nearly a dozen intermittent and ephemeral streams flow through this landscape, contributing to our region’s water quality and bringing a supply of cold, clean water to the Deschutes River system.
In addition to the immense community benefits the forestland provides, it is an unwise and unsafe place for development. Given the fire-prone ecology, it is especially susceptible to high-severity fires. Over the past 12 years, the Two Bulls and Rooster Rock fires burned over 13,000 acres in and around the property. To keep our cities and towns safe from wildfire, we need to avoid development in Bend’s wildland-urban interface.
Skyline Forest is a key part of daily life in Central Oregon. The forest’s proximity to Bend and Sisters affords residents and visitors convenient access to the great outdoors. It offers close-to-town outdoor access and stunning views of the Cascade Mountains and, if left intact, keeps homes and buildings out of a wildfire-prone area.
“The fate of Skyline Forest is of regional significance,” says Executive Director Ben Gordon. “It would be a terrific gain for Central Oregon’s livable future to find a permanent conservation solution focused on community values of outdoor access, wildlife habitat, water quality, and wildfire safety.”
With mounting pressure from regional growth and climate change, this is a landscape that must be conserved for all the incredible values it has and benefits it brings to our Central Oregon communities. LandWatch is bringing the community together to Save Skyline Forest once and for all. Find out more at SaveSkylineForest.org.