Since the Two Bulls Fire started Saturday, Bill Swarts, forester for Cascade Timberlands, has been assessing the impact on the company’s timber holdings.
He said Thursday it’s too early to estimate how much was lost and how much might be salvage logged.
“It’s a little bit too soon to do that yet until we get all the firefighters out,” he said.
As of Thursday there were still 638 firefighters on the fire, which had burned 6,908 acres — nearly 11 square miles — and the fire was 55 percent contained, according to the state-led team fighting the blaze. The cost of fighting the fire is at $4.3 million.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has said the Two Bulls Fire, as well as another small fire Tuesday south of Skyliners Road, was suspicious and potentially arson. The reward for information leading to a conviction in the Two Bulls Fire was up to $36,825 Thursday.
The fire burned 6,100 acres of the nearly 33,000 acres northwest of Bend owned by Cascade Timberlands. It’s the second time in four years that wildfire has charred the company’s land.
The 6,143-acre Rooster Rock Fire in 2010 blackened 4,000 acres of its holdings.
Acquiring land for a ‘Skyline Forest’
The company’s land is what the Deschutes Land Trust envisions as the “Skyline Forest.” Despite the fires, Brad Chalfant, land trust executive director, said the Bend-based organization is still interested in acquiring the land.
“All the reasons that we are interested in Skyline Forest continue,” he said.
He said protecting the forest from potential development would provide wildlife habitat and a place for education and recreation, as well as preserve scenic views.
“This continues to be the view from much of Central Oregon looking toward the mountains,” he said.
The land trust has been working on the idea of the Skyline Forest for more than a decade and made offers on the Cascade Timberlands property in 2012. The company rebuffed the offers.
For Swarts, who guides the management of the forest, the land is still called “Bull Springs Tree Farm.” He said he hasn’t been involved in any of the talks about a possible sale.
Timber giant Crown Pacific owned the tree farm before it went bankrupt in 2002. The land was sold off to creditors and eventually came to be owned by Cascade Timberlands, which has an office in Bend. Fidelity National Timber Resources, a subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fidelity National Financial, owns Cascade Timberlands.
Along with the land the Deschutes Land Trust wants for the Skyline Forest, Cascade Timberlands has forests near Gilchrist and close to Chiloquin. Chalfant said it appears Fidelity wants to sell off all of its holdings in Oregon — about 200,000 acres — rather than sell pieces of them. So he’s been working the past couple of years to bring partners into a deal. Those partners include the Klamath Tribes, which want to acquire 92,000 acres from Fidelity near Chiloquin.
Nancy Craven, vice president for Fidelity National Timber Resources, declined to take questions Thursday about any potential deals for the Bull Springs Tree Farm or the timber damage caused by the fire. She said Greg Lane, company president, would be the one to discuss such topics.
“He’s be pleased to talk to you, but he can’t do it quite yet,” she said.
Swarts is waiting for detailed maps from the state so he can compare them with his inventories.
The tree farm has trees ranging from seedlings to 100 years old, Swarts said, mostly ponderosa pine but also some lodgepole, white fir and sugar pine. He commended firefighters for their quick response to the Two Bulls Fire.
“I think they did a heck of a good job containing as soon as they did,” he said. “That could have been a lot bigger than it turned out be.”
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