Kitsap farms practice conservation without government regulation

"Though 50 years old, the Kitsap Conservation District is considered a breath of fresh air among the hundreds of farmers and ranchers currently living in Kitsap County. Especially since at least a few say they've felt stifled and overwhelmed by an ever-increasing number of county land-use regulations that are, in large part, a direct response to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) guidelines or water-quality concerns as a whole. The conservation district is a non-regulatory agency, said Chuck Arnold, owner and operator of Bear Creek Meadows ranch, and a private property owner who found a friend in the Conservation District. That's the key point in all of this. Arnold is but one resident who owns and operates one of roughly 2,000 ranches and farms scattered about the Kitsap peninsula. Don and Arletta Baskins, a retired couple, also own a farm in Poulsbo that encompasses parts of Dogfish Creek. They too, found a friend in the Conservation District when the couple first decided to improve the family farm, which has been passed down on Arletta's side of the family. Problem is, Kitsap farms are invariably bordered by or contain critical creeks and watersheds. As a result, water quality and fish health problems tend to surge to the forefront. Don and Arletta Baskins of Poulsbo have firsthand experience with what the Conservation District can accomplish for small farm operators and the county as a whole. Quite understandably, the couple felt a tad overwhelmed when they returned to the quiet of Poulsbo several years ago from the hustle and bustle of Seattle. After all, on the farm, some project is always pending and some improvement in the works, they say. After the couple started to divide up the family farm to deed a portion to their son, the Conservation District wrote the couple a letter, proposing how Dogfish Creek could be preserved and maintained for generations to come by employing several management techniques on their property. Dogfish Creek, which carries salmon and other fish, drains into Liberty Bay. Don and Arletta liked what the District had to say. Soon, native plants were installed along the creek by local volunteers and, on March 4, anther such planting is in the works. The Baskins estimate more than 840 native plants will be installed to provide the creek and its salmon with much-needed shade. Special drainage systems were installed on their property, and an animal waste composting shelter was constructed as well. The planning and implementation means a lot of work for the couple, but they say it's worth it, as well. Hard work and planning now, means that the family farm will be available to their children's children and so on, for generations to come. That means everything to Don Baskins, since he grew up for the most part along that creek, and knows exactly what it's like to have access to such a valuable and pure resource. "

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