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Conservation group wants to buy burned forest near Bend

Deschutes Land Trust has had an eye on the property
 Posted: 2:00 AM June 14, 2014

BEND — A conservation group says the wildfire that burned more than 10 square miles of private timberland outside Bend has not dampened its desire to buy the property.

The Two Bulls fire broke out last Saturday on forest owned by Cascade Timberlands. Although it threatened hundreds of scattered rural homes west of Bend, firefighters managed to stop its spread, and on Friday it was 70 percent contained.

Investigators have said it was caused by people, but have not said whether it was deliberately set or an accident.

The Bulletin newspaper reports that Deschutes Land Trust has long been interested in buying the property to create a Skyline Forest.

The goal is to preserve it from development, protect wildlife habitat, maintain scenic views and use it in education programs, executive director Brad Chalfant said.

"All the reasons that we are interested in Skyline Forest continue," he said. "This continues to be the view from much of Central Oregon looking toward the mountains,"

The timber company is not ready to talk about its plans for what it calls the Bull Springs Tree Farm.

Cascade Timberlands forester Bill Swarts said the company has been assessing the fire's impact on its timber holdings.

Timber giant Crown Pacific owned the tree farm before going bankrupt in 2002. The land was sold to creditors and eventually came to be owned by Cascade Timberlands, which has an office in Bend. The timber company is owned by Fidelity National Timber Resources, a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial in Jacksonville, Florida.

Cascade Timberlands also has forests near Gilchrist and Chiloquin, Chalfant said. Fidelity apparently wants to sell all its holdings in Oregon, amounting to about 200,000 acres, so he has been working to draw in partners, he added.

The Two Bulls fire burned through about 6,100 acres of the nearly 33,000 acres Cascade Timberlands owns northwest of Bend. It's the second time in four years that wildfire has hit the company's land.

Nancy Craven, vice president for Fidelity National Timber Resources, declined comment on selling the Bull Springs Tree Farm, referring comment to President Greg Lane, who she said was not available.

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