Impact of tree farm swap not known
No one knows yet whether state ownership of timberland in central Klamath County would impact the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
The land, known as the Mazama Tree Farm, is a 90,000-acre piece of private property straddling Highway 97 between Chemult and Spring Creek. If the restoration agreement is approved and implemented, federal money would be used to help the Klamath Tribes purchase it.
But now Oregon forestry officials are discussing a deal that would preclude that. It would include exchanging two other parcels for the tree farm and then transferring it to the Klamath Tribes.
County, tribal and irrigation officials said they don’t know how that arrangement would impact the agreement.
“We’re having discussions with the state about what their interest is,” said Jeff Mitchell, a Klamath Tribes council member.
Part of water pact
The Mazama Tree Farm is just one component of the agreement. Released Jan. 15, the 256-page document calls for a variety of projects and actions to allocate water between Klamath River Basin communities, including dam removal and establishment of a stable power rate for irrigators.
Klamath tribal leaders had discussed purchasing the property from its current owners, Fidelity National Investments, as a way to promote tribal economic development.
Federal law requires that whoever owns the property manage it for sustained harvest.
Tribal members retain hunting, fishing and gathering rights to the property because it was formerly tribal land.
Forestry officials said the state is considering exchanging the property for two other parcels in Klamath and Deschutes counties as part of a statewide movement to preserve larger acreages of timberland. The plan is still in the conceptual stages.
The state’s interest is a surprise to tribal leaders as well as Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association. Tribal leaders said they just became aware of the state’s intentions.
Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said he didn’t know what impact state ownership of the tree farm would put on the agreement but it could be beneficial, as it would eliminate some of the Congressional approval needed to implement the agreement.