The Oregon Department of Forestry is contemplating a boundary shift that would affect which lots in Central Oregon receive wildland fire protection from the agency.
The department is holding a public hearing in Redmond on Monday regarding proposed changes to its Forest Protection District Boundary in Deschutes and Jefferson counties. The proposed changes would better align district boundaries with urban growth boundaries in Bend and other Central Oregon cities, which have grown significantly over the past few decades without prompting a change from ODF, according to Gordon Foster, Prineville-Sisters unit forester for the agency.
As a result, Foster said a number of lots pay for fire protection from the agency while being within the city of Bend’s urban growth boundary.
“In time, the growth of the city has encroached on the forest,” Foster said.
The state forestry agency protects public and private forested land across Oregon, and owners of forest land pay a fee to the department for protection against wildfires.
However, forest land has not been classified in Deschutes County since the 1970s, according to The Bulletin’s archives. Foster said the agency has been working on re-classifying forest land in the state since 2014, in response to a rule change from seven years earlier.
The Deschutes County Forestland Classification Committee, a collection of six landowners in the county, was tasked with providing updated and accurate classifications for fire protection district boundaries, according to Foster.
“It’s a pretty arduous process,” he said.
Foster added that the proposed change would remove about 8,000 lots in Central Oregon from the district boundaries. He said property owners pay $1.94 per acre or 69 cents per acre per year, depending on the classification of the forest land. The state pays the same amount to support fire protection on the forest land.
The majority of the lots that may be removed are in south and west Bend, though Foster added that around 250 lots in Sundance, to the east of Bend’s urban growth boundary, have been recommended for inclusion. The district manages more than 30,000 lots in Central Oregon, according to Foster.
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Redmond City Hall, 411 SW Ninth St. Attendees can provide oral or written testimony, which the Board of Forestry will review and consider for approval prior to the proposed change, according to ODF’s website. Written testimony must be received by 5 p.m. March 23.
— Reporter: 541-617-7818, firstname.lastname@example.org