County buys east Oregon timber land

The Hood River County Commission voted unanimously on July 15 to buy forest land in two eastern Oregon counties.

The $6.6 million deal involves about 19,000 acres and is expected to close by the end of the month, according to County Forester Ken Galloway.

County officials decided to go ahead with the purchase on Galloway’s recommendation that the timberland would be a good long-term investment. He figures the two properties will yield between $250,000-$400,000 annually once the trees mature in about 15 years. Meanwhile, Galloway said two stands of mixed larch, pine and fir are ready for cutting and will bring in $50,000-$75,000 every other year for up to six years. In addition, the county is expected to net about $19,000 annually from grazing rights on some of the open land included with the purchase.

The two tracts include the Wilkins Creek parcel of 5,480 acres in Umatilla County and the Desolation Creek parcel of 13,300 acres in Grant County.

Galloway was directed by the county board last year to scout for new forest properties that could be purchased with some of the $7.6 million gained from the 2001 exchange of 1,000 Scenic Area acres with the U.S. Forest Service. Officials decided to reinvest the monies back into forest properties after receiving differing legal opinions at the state and federal levels about whether the money could be used for anything but the purchase of other resource lands.

Although the county received some suggestions that it just leave the money in the bank, Sandi Borowy, finance director, said that bad financial markets have lowered the ability of the county to draw more than a two to three percent return on the short-term investments it is allowed by law to make.

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