West Bend Project receives USFS top honor

Bend, Ore.  The West Bend Vegetation Management Project has received the 2017 Forest Service’s Chief’s Honor Award, the highest award given by the Forest Service.

The Chief’s Honor Award publicly recognizes outstanding accomplishments that contribute to the Forest Service’s strategic goals. The prestigious honor was given to the West Bend Project in the category of “Sustaining Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands” for the ambitious 26,000 acre restoration project immediately adjacent to the City of Bend.

Historically in Central Oregon, small wildfires or insect infestations created a forest of different-aged trees, underbrush, and openings or clearings, allowing a diversity of wildlife and plants to flourish and kept forests resilient to large scale disturbances.

The West Bend Vegetation Management Project prescribes vegetation treatments across approximately 26,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest to restore a healthy forest landscape consistent with the region’s historical norm.

“The Deschutes National Forest worked directly with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP), a group of 19 volunteer community stakeholders representing interests from environment to industry, to undertake a very ambitious project in an area where people love to recreate,” Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon said. “To have the forest step in and acknowledge the need to take care of this area so folks can continue having these experiences and then get the support to do the work…that is a pretty amazing accomplishment. The DCFP working with the Deschutes National Forest is truly an example of shared leadership.”

Kevin Larkin, District Ranger on the Bend-Fort Rock District of the Deschutes National Forest, accepted the award at a ceremony in Washington D.C. Dec. 7. He was joined by Pete Caligiuri, a Forest Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, who attended on behalf of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project.

“This project could not have happened were it not for the Deschutes Collaborative that worked hand-in-hand, as an equal partner, with us to make this project a success,” Larkin said. “The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project team hosted meetings, field trips, presentations and conducted a vast awareness campaign to get buy-in for this project while the employees of the Deschutes National Forest put in literally thousands of hours planning, and now, implementation. This is a true demonstration of how well we can do when we build community support for restoration and how that allows us to increase the pace and scale of restoration in the future.”

The West Bend Vegetation Management Project’s goal is to restore a more resilient and healthy forest.  For additional information go to www.deschutescollaborativeforest.org.

Courtesy photo: Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project

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