Prineville off the Forest Service list<BR>
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
>The administrative headquarters for the combined Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests will be in either Bend or RedmondIt is official: the search for a location for the headquarters for the combined Ochoco/Deschutes National Forest will not be in Prineville.
Last October the decision was made by the Forest Service to combine the two forest headquarters operations. Recently the process for finding the best site to house the headquarters staff for that joint operation began. The fear locally was that if a Bend or Redmond site were chosen, it would mean a major loss to the local labor force.
Last June the decision was made to put in effect the new leadership plan for management of BLM and Forest Service public lands in central Oregon. Officially known as the Central Oregon Initiative Leadership Organization Plan, the idea was to collaborate across the three units involved: both the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests and the Bureau of Land Management, Prineville District.
Early in the process of merging the two Forests, officials made it clear that the Forest Service will continue to be a visible presence in the communities of Prineville, Madras and Bend. Until everything concerning the merger is completed, both the Prineville District BLM and Ochoco National Forest continued to work out of the Prineville offices.
Initially three primary locations were considered - Prineville, Redmond and Bend. After discussion with community leaders in the three cities and employees on the two forests, Prineville is no longer being considered as a future Headquarters location.
"We recognize that this decision when implemented will result in a loss of forest service employees in Prineville," stated Leslie Weldon, Ochoco and Deschutes National Forest Supervisor. "We intend to maintain a strong and visible presence in the Prineville community through the Lookout Mountain Ranger District."
The Lookout Mountain Ranger District office will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day needs of the local community including issuing permits, offering visitor information and working with contractors and permittees - none of that will change. In addition, some HQ functions could remain in Prineville, the details of which will be worked on over the next few weeks.
As the decision is implemented in the next two to four years, approximately 50 Forest Service employees will no longer work in Prineville.
Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said that losing these people could be a big loss for the community. He commented that those in leadership roles are the same people, for the most part, who have taken an active part in the community.
"I talked with former Congressman Bob Smith about this decision," Cooper said. "He agreed to review our options, both legislatively and administratively to see if something could be done in his capacity. We'll know within a week or so."
In announcing the decision to limit the search to just the two communities, it was pointed out that the 38 or so employees with the Lookout Mountain Ranger District will remain here. Also the Prineville BLM District Office will stay in Prineville and the District Manager will serve as an associate Forest Supervisor.
"The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will continue to build and share responsibility for land management activities in Central Oregon," said Weldon.
"The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will continue to build and share responsibility for land management activities in Central Oregon," she said.
The Ochoco currently spends $1.6 million annually in small purchases, of that, approximately $477,600 of those purchases area spent in Prineville. With the move, we expect expenditures in Prineville to remain about $376,100.
The final decision on the Headquarters location is expected in early April.