At nearly 50 square miles, the Skyline Forest is the sea of dappled green that stretches from just outside Bend nearly to Sisters. It's the forest that frames Bend's postcard view of the Three Sisters Wilderness. It's also a playground for hikers, bikers and horseback riders, a source of clean water, clean air and a significant swath of wildlife habitat - all right outside our back door. It's also one of the most endangered forests in the Northwest because of its relatively low timber value and high development potential. However, thanks to the efforts of a number of individuals and groups like the Deschutes Land Trust and Central Oregon Landwatch, there's a good chance that Skyline Forest will be preserved intact for future generations as a multipurpose asset. Under the proposed plan, the community will have an option to purchase the bulk of the 33,000-acre forest, which would be protected from piecemeal development while allowing for expanded recreation and some selected timber harvest.
Land Trust Executive Director Brad Chalfant, whose group has already secured $4 million in federal funds to aid in the acquisition, said it's a unique opportunity to create one of the nation's largest community forests within close proximity to an urban area. And while logging doesn't typically fall under the banner of "green" initiatives, in this case, the already heavily harvested forest requires active management to address past timber harvest impacts while managing for fire danger in the urban-forest intersection. In addition, a selective logging regimen could actually help pay for the purchase of the forest while providing a modest amount of material for one of Central Oregon's few remaining mills, Chalfant said.
Now that's pretty much the definition of sustainability in our book.