A public hearing Monday night on Kitsap County’s proposed Forest Stewardship Policy elicited several comments from citizens in support of the plan.
Arno Bergstrom, the local director of Washington State University extension programs in Kitsap County, said that thinning about 200 acres per year of the county’s 6,000 acres of forests should create enough revenue to support the program and leave some money left over to put back into parks and recreation.
Bergstrom has been involved in crafting the stewardship policy for over two years and talked about why it’s important.
“Some of the volunteers would say we need to do it for our community,” Bergrstrom said. “We need to provide the highest quality recreation experience and wildlife habit possible and we can do better.”
Thinning operations in the years to come would focus on the county’s heritage parks which include Coulter Creek at 1,195 acres, Newberry Hill at 1,100 acres, Banner Forest at 35 acres and North Kitsap at 443 acres.
Frank Strickland, who is a steward at the Newberry Hill Heritage Park, said he got involved with forest stewardship based on his specific interest in wetlands and the 27 bodies of water at the park.
“Without healthy uplands, we don’t have any wetlands in the lowlands, so I had to get up to speed on this,” he said.
Strickland said he wasn’t an early fan of the forest stewardship program, but since then has become a Washington state stream steward and native plant advisor. He’s also received training from the Department of Ecology and Washington wetlands rating systems, both in Eastern and Western Washington.
“So, I’ve learned a lot and I think this is important and the science is good,” he said. “Like a lot of citizens we’re always nervous when we’re dealing with the government so we’re counting on everyone here.”
Art Ellison, the president of the Hansville Greenway Association, said that he hopes that the stewardship plan allows his group to continue to manage the area exclusively as a wildlife corridor and preserve and said that commercial thinning or logging is not compatible with wildlife, biodiversity, environmental education and recreation.
“Generally, we think the plan that was presented is quite good,” Ellison added.
Ron Cleveland, a West Bremerton resident, strongly recommended that commissioners approve the plan.
“I’m excited to see the county consider such a new and creative and forward looking policy,” he said. “I think that this is really something that needs to be done to improve our parks.”
Cleveland noted that he took a stream steward class and recommends that other area residents consider signing up for the next round of classes in November.
“It’s fun to see the diff ecology in the forest between the parks and within each park,” he said.
Beverly Kincaid spoke about some aspects of the plan that she feels are lacking.
“All I saw were essentially outputs and not outcomes,” she said. “The plan clearly is lacking outcomes.”
Kincaid aslo raised questions about the cost of the plan.
“I feel uncomfortable with loaning the project $154,000 from the general fund at a time when county employees are not working 40-hour work weeks and at a time when resources are being stretched far beyond what we ever thought they would be,” she said.
Kincaid said that even with the loan, things like typical administrative costs and fuel costs, could make the program even more expensive.
Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said she would like to see the plan include more ways to measure where the program is succeeding moving forward. She said she would also like to see “a little better definition” of what the Forest Stewardship Council will look like and what its responsibilities will be in the years to come.
The proposed forest stewardship policy has been some two years in the making and about 300 citizens and stakeholders participated in crafting the policy. Most recently, there were public workshops in July in Kingston, Port Orchard and Bremerton. The proposed policy, along with plenty of other information, can be found online at www.kitsapgov.com/parks.