The West Bend Project

Forest restoration is happening in the “West Bend” project area in the Deschutes National Forest to safeguard the trails for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, and access sites to the Deschutes River after decades of land mismanagement has made the area prime for large spread wildfire.

Restoration Focus

The West Bend area, directly west of the city of Bend, is:

  • More than 25,000 acres that are dominated by historically ponderosa pine forest.

  • Most of the area was owned by the Shevlin-Hixon company and following all the logging in the 1920-1930’s after the forest was depleted of sellable lumber, was traded to the Forest Service to avoid paying land taxes.

  • Since then, the West Bend area has experienced little fire, allowing every seed that hits the ground to grow, creating a higher density of trees than the forest can sustain for being in the high desert.

Ponderosa Pine Landscape recommendations:

  • In 2010, the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP) created Ponderosa Pine landscape (view PDF) recommendations, which coincided with the development of the planning of the West Bend restoration project.

  • The landscape recommendations were developed through exhaustive research of science articles, land studies, and presentations of the historical condition of the forest and its processes by many members of the DCFP.

  • Once complete, the recommendations were given to the Deschutes National Forest Service to help inform the Forest Service on what steps to take to try to bring the current forest to have similar composition, structure, and function as the historical forest, which is the goal for a healthier forest.

Approach to Restoration

The fire adapted Ponderosa pine forest in the West Bend area was found to have historically; fewer trees, ponderosa pine dominated overstory (the top foliage from multiple trees that combine to create an overhang or canopy under which people can walk or sit.), grass dominated understory (a layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy of a forest.) and frequent low severity fires. To move the landscape towards the desired future condition, the Collaborative and Forest service focused on a few main planning approaches:

To reduce the forest density for a myriad of reasons, such as to improve recreation opportunities, fire resilience, insect resistance, animal habitat, and much more - done through thinning out trees and mowing the forest floor.
Continuing the restoration to a high percentage of the landscape so prescribed burns can re-introduce fire back into the forest. This puts nutrients into the soil and limits the amount of seeds from sprouting into thickets of trees.
Ongoing management to help the ponderosa pines again be the dominant tree and bunch grasses & native plants reclaim the forest floor.
Removing roads added to assist with restoration projects to reduce wildlife disturbance across the West Bend area.

Implementation and Recreation

Actual restoration in the West Bend Project area started in 2013. The work has taken longer than expected due to ensuring trail access in the forest is available while restoration is taking place. The original plan of closing large sections of West Bend was modified in 2015, with some of the strategies including:
  • Areas along the Deschutes River were mostly treated in winter months.

  • Strategic closures of areas for bike & hiking trails coordinated with recreation groups and trying to not impact all trails from any one trailhead at the same time.

  • Burning operations would not affect numerous trails at the same time.

  • Kiosk information on operations was posted at trailheads and made available online through recreation websites.

At the time of planning:

  • There were more than 140 miles of trails in the West Best area.

  • Restoration plans started in 2010, close to when Congress passed the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act. The Deschutes National Forest was approved for funding from this Act and the Deschutes Collaborative was then formed.

Originally the restoration projects in the West Bend area were projected to continue for 10 years following the decision to allow the project, but will take a bit longer due to a variety of reasons (including Covid closures, weather patterns, recreationists not respecting closures and slowing the work down).

The objective for restoring this area to a fire adapted ecosystem adjacent to Bend will require long term commitment to reduce brush and fuels as they accumulate and keep fire processes working in a low severity model. Roads following use for tree removal will be closed, and many eliminated, as they are no longer required for management. But we should all expect ongoing thinning and prescribed fire projects once the initial work in the West Best area is finished. We will continue to update details on the page to keep the community in the loop of what is happening.

West Bend Project Maps

DCFP CFLRP Overview Map

Implementation Areas

West Bend Project Map

Check out the stages of restoration:

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Join our newsletter list to receive updates on forest restoration activity in the Deschutes National Forest, including temporary trail closures, prescribed fire announcements, and related community events.

* indicates required
(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project