The Oregon Department of Forestry is seeking public input about a property acquisition that could incorporate 29,000 acres into the Gilchrist State Forest.
The 60-day public comment period began Nov. 5 and will close Jan. 3. A public hearing will be Dec. 5 in Klamath Falls, according to an ODF press release.
The proposed acquisition includes a 3,000-acre parcel privately owned by Central Oregon Land Holdings and a 25,453-acre parcel owned by the Conservation Fund, the press release said. Both properties are adjacent to the Gilchrist State Forest.
The Conservation Fund property was acquired as a series of purchases between 2008 and 2010 as part of an agreement with ODF to purchase the property when funds became available, said Tony Anderson, public information officer for the ODF.
“(The Conservation Fund) owned the land and they partnered with us with the understanding that when we had the money, they would sell it to us,” Anderson said.
Evan Smith, vice president for conservation ventures at The Conservation Fund, Smith said in 2010 a lease-and-option agreement was signed that allocated property management between the two entities.
“In this case we leased the property back to the ODF so they have responsibility for it and control of how it’s managed. The Conservation Fund pays the fire protection and property tax,” Smith said.
According to a press release, the ODF has $10.2 million available to fund the acquisition: $1.98 million from Oregon Lottery-backed bonds approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2011, $3 million from the federal Forest Legacy grant and $5.2 million in general bonds approved by the Legislature in 2013.
Gilchrist State Forest is located 45 miles south of Bend, east of U.S. Highway 97. It was dedicated as a 43,000-acre state forest in 2010, and has since been utilized for recreation and timber harvest. According to Anderson, the goal of the acquisition is to increase environmental, economic and recreation opportunities in the area.
He said although some lodgepole pine harvest is happening in Gilchrist State Forest, the forest remains undeveloped and called it “Oregon’s last outback.”
“(The acquisition property) would have the same use as the acres that are currently in Gilchrist,” Anderson said.
Written public comments concerning the proposed acquisition should be sent to the Oregon Department of Forestry, Attn: Patty Cate, 2600 State St., Bldg. D, Salem, OR 97310 or by email to email@example.com.
The public hearing will be Dec. 5 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Klamath County Government Center, Commissioners Meeting Room No. 219, 305 Main St., Klamath Falls.