County sells east Oregon timberland

Hood River County has accepted the offers of two bidders interested in purchasing all of the county’s nearly 19,000 acres of Eastern Oregon timberland it has owned since 2002.

After executive session Monday night, Hood River County Commissioners unanimously voted to accept a bid of $5.7 million for 13,652 acres of county forestland along Desolation Creek in Grant County. Ecotrust, a Portland-based conservation group that describes its forestry division as a “forestland investment management and advisory services company,” submitted the lone bid, with a purchase price of about $417.52 per acre.

County Administrator Dave Meriwether also confirmed Monday that the county had sold a 5,309-acre parcel of forestland known as the Wilkins Creek Tract in Eastern Oregon’s Umatilla County for $2.335 million. Three bids on the land were submitted to the county, with the winning bid going to Western Partitions Inc., an “interior/exterior contracting firm” with locations around the Pacific Northwest, including the Portland metro area. Meriwether said the land sold for $235,000 more than the minimum amount the county sought. The parcel sold for approximately $439.82 per acre.

The total sale price of $8.035 million means the county “made a little bit of money” on its 11-year investment despite general decreases in timber values, said Meriwether. The county purchased the land for $6.666 million back in 2002 as part of a tripartite exchange with the U.S. Forest Service, who agreed to compensate Hood River County for a 1,016-acre swath of mature forestland on the west side of the county that was rendered untouchable by the formation of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in 1986.

The county has been motivated to divest itself of its Eastern Oregon timber holdings due to the cost and difficulty of administering land so far away from its borders. Meriwether estimated the county spent around $30,000 per year in administration costs on the two parcels.

Though it made a small profit on the timber sale, the county has no plans to dump the funds back into county coffers. In July, County Forestry Manager Doug Thiesies reported that the county was interested in purchasing more forestland, but within Hood River County. He mentioned there were “a couple of tracts of land in the county we may be interested in” that were state-owned, but declined to go into further detail.

Meriwether confirmed Monday that the county was still interested in purchasing more forestland in Hood River County, but wouldn’t delve into specifics.

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