Skyline Forest, a huge tract of undeveloped land located west of Bend, has been a source of concern for quite some time. At almost 33,000 acres, this pristine privately owned area is for sale. Conservationists worry about heightened wildfire risk, loss of wildlife habitat and other negative impacts of development.
Central Oregon LandWatch has stepped up by focusing on public outreach and raising awareness. In addition, local nonprofit, Deschutes Land Trust, that handles stewardship and financial aspects of conservation, would like to purchase the land. With a $95 million price tag, however, that may not be so easy.
Trinity Lutheran middle school science teacher, Alisa Jeffries, recently engaged her 7th and 8th grade students by inviting Alex Hardison from Central Oregon LandWatch to visit her classes. Hardison spoke about fire safety and environmental awareness. The discussion included the Save Skyline Forest campaign, which raised thought-provoking questions from the students.
After some discussion, Jeffries' students expressed their opinions through art and writing. Middle-schooler Morgan G. wrote, "The splendor of nature alone is more of a reason to make Central Oregon a destination than anything mankind can create." Classmate Sarah H. suggested that jobs in a protected area would be available as well, such as research and possibly responsible logging.
Although most students wanted Skyline Forest to remain protected, a few thought it should be developed, stating that new homes would help with the housing shortage.
While these students may not be able to vote or purchase large tracts of property, awareness of important issues is the first step to having a stake in their community's future.
For more information about Skyline Forest, visit https://saveskylineforest.centraloregonlandwatch.org/