Three Things You Can Do For Our Forest

By Alan Unger, Tony DeBone & Tammy Baney

One reason Central Oregonians love this area is the striking landscape provided by the Deschutes National Forest. The forest is the backdrop of our lives and the core of our identity and sense of place. We have a unique relationship with our forest.  It is our playground, a source of commerce, industry, and economic growth, and the breathtaking vista we enjoy every day.

Having a National Forest in our backyard brings opportunities for recreation such as driving the Cascade Lakes Highway, riding mountain bike trails or backcountry skiing. From a business perspective, a healthy National Forest in our community bolsters outdoor recreation and tourism and offers a recruitment perk to attract new businesses and a highly educated, highly skilled workforce to the area. We all agree the Deschutes National Forest provides something for everyone.

We also agree that the Deschutes National Forest is in urgent need of forest restoration.  Forest restoration, including tree thinning, brush mowing, and prescribed burning, helps renew the forest, and makes it more resilient to destructive wildfire, insect infestation, disease, and drought.

If we want healthy forests of towering ponderosa pines across the Deschutes National Forest , now is the time to take action to restore a healthier forest for current and future generations of Central Oregonians. We have a responsibility to work with our communities to ensure the future of our forests becomes a reality. And, fortunately for all of us, there is a local group working together to do just that.

Since 2010, the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP) has been bringing together a wide range of stakeholders on a voluntary basis to find common ground on forest stewardship.  The DCFP is forging a new model for how Central Oregonians can engage in planning and decision making on the Deschutes National Forest.

The DCFP has created a forum to bring together diverse stakeholders to work together to create a shared vision of a restored forest, a forest that can provide the many things we value from our public lands. Environmentalists, forest products companies, researchers, the U.S. Forest Service, recreation business owners, private landowners, local governments and others are all at the table.

The DCFP is demonstrating that we’re past the time of pointing fingers, which hasn’t served the forest or our communities well.  We need everyone to understand that this is a new way of doing business focused on fostering dialogue, strengthening relationships, increasing transparency, and building trust to find common ground and get much needed restoration work done in the forest.

The DCFP is working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that the forests adjacent to Sisters, Bend, and Sunriver are going to be growing healthier and more resilient, while providing myriad benefits to the communities of Central Oregon. This work will help sustain our outdoor recreation and tourism economy, generate forest products for local mills, provide jobs for millworkers and forest operators, drive innovation and small business opportunities, protect clean water, and make our communities safer and more fire-adapted.

When we protect the Deschutes National Forest, we also protect the communities of Central Oregon.  Restoration projects enhance the livability of the region by lowering the chance of catastrophic effects from wildfire on our communities, like damage to homes and private property, as well as heavy smoke for weeks on end.  Restoration projects also bring our community stakeholders together to discuss restoration outcomes and how we can make projects better in the future.

The Deschutes National Forest belongs to us all. But with that sense of ownership comes a call to action: taking responsibility for learning what it means to be better stewards of our forest, and working together to make it healthier and more resilient.  We owe that to the forest that contributes so much to our economy and quality of life. If we all collectively accept the idea of active restoration, all of Central Oregon wins.

We urge all Central Oregonians to get behind this restoration work and support our collective efforts to bring the forest back to a healthy, resilient condition.  Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Support thinning projects and prescribed burns that are ongoing west of Bend and in other areas of the forest. Yes, this will mean the occasional, short-term trail closure, or some smoke in the air from prescribed fires in spring and fall.  But these inconveniences are a good trade-off to increase the health of our forest and reduce the chance of destructive wildfires.
  2. Follow the Deschutes Collaborative on Facebook to get updates about controlled burns, forest restoration science, fire preparedness, and more. [link]
  3. Join the efforts of the Deschutes Collaborative. Sign up for announcements of upcoming volunteer opportunities, forest tours, public meetings, and forest restoration related news. [link to Contact page.]

The Deschutes Board of County Commissioners is comprised of the three elected Commissioners: Alan Unger, Tony DeBone, and Tammy Baney. They serve as the public’s elected advocates and are the policymaking body of Deschutes County government.  Commissioner Alan Unger also chairs the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project.

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(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project