The Hood River Forest and Fish Conservation Project is a plan to conserve 19,772 acres of working forestlands in Hood River County, Oregon, one of the fastest growing counties in the state. The acreage is surrounded on three sides by the Mount Hood National Forest. It’s traversed by two major tributaries of the Hood River that supply drinking water to over 8000 people and irrigation water for over 21,000 acres.
The forest here protects the cold and clear waters that are vital habitats for four species of salmon and steelhead, which in turn sustain the economically irreplaceable fisheries in the larger main stem of the Hood River. Recreation is on an equal footing with timber products here, with the West Fork of the Hood River being one of Oregon’s best Class IV whitewater rivers, healthy big game herds drawing hunters each fall, and both summer and winter runs of steelhead bringing anglers from all parts of the U.S. The concept of a working forest here is tied closely to the traditional uses of these lands – while the timber provides jobs in the woods and the local mills, locals and visitors alike use the forest here as an essential part of their lives and income, harvesting berries, mushrooms and firewood, in addition to salal, fern, beargrass and seasonal decorative boughs from Douglas and Noble fir.
The Hood River Forest and Fish Conservation Plan is not a land purchase; it is the purchase of an easement that will guarantee the permanent conservation of these lands and waters, public access and continued use as a sustainable working landscape. The easement will cost about $14 million and will be purchased over a period of three years by way of the Forest Legacy Program, which is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Development, which already is underway at the forward edge of the property in question, will have a resoundingly negative cascade of effects on the area and its long term economy. Without the LWCF, such development is almost a given.