Bend, OR – On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a new zone designed specifically to limit wildfire risk for development west of Bend. The county’s new Westside Transect Zone will limit development to a maximum of 187 homes on about 700 acres between the city of Bend and Tumalo Creek on private land that could otherwise be eventually developed at a level more than ten times that amount.
The conditions for wildfire west of Bend make high levels of development extremely dangerous, which is why Central Oregon LandWatch, a non-profit land use advocacy group, has spent more than a decade advocating for more careful planning where the city of Bend and development meet forested areas.
This decision completes a series of successful negotiations between private landowners and Paul Dewey, Executive Director of Central Oregon LandWatch, which limit development and require fire-resistant building practices in high fire risk areas. Now, more than 1,500 acres on Bend’s west side have better protection from wildfire.
“For over 30 years the wildfire risk to Bend’s west side has been known, but development kept occurring over there,” explained Dewey. “Building out into the ponderosa pine forest to the west is not a good idea, not only because it is a fire-based ecology but that is from where the summer winds blow directly toward Bend. Now both the City of Bend and Deschutes County have recognized that further development must be limited. The recent catastrophic fires at Paradise, Thousand Oaks, Santa Rosa, Ventura and Redding in California, as well as the Two Bulls fire west of Bend, are testaments to that.”
While extreme weather-driven fire will still be a real threat to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), the Westside Transect will help save lives and homes. Reduced density means there will be fewer people to evacuate in the event of a fire. More space between homes, firewise building codes, and landscaping requirements will reduce the risk of rapidly spreading wildfire. The resulting fire-resistant neighborhoods will not only help protect residents, but will provide a first line of defense that may help protect the Bend neighborhoods behind them.
To learn more about Central Oregon LandWatch’s efforts to reduce fire risk in the WUI, visit: https://www.centraloregonlandwatch.org/wui