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Forterra signs purchase agreement for Port Gamble shoreline block

More than a mile of Port Gamble Bay shoreline and 535 upland acres were recently acquired for conservation, the first of five blocks the Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition hopes to secure from Pope Resources.                                 - Don Willott / Courtesy
More than a mile of Port Gamble Bay shoreline and 535 upland acres were recently acquired for conservation, the first of five blocks the Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition hopes to secure from Pope Resources.
— image credit: Don Willott / Courtesy

PORT GAMBLE — Forterra and Pope Resources signed a purchase and sale agreement Wednesday for 535 acres of forestland and 1.5 miles of shoreline along Port Gamble Bay and State Route 104.

“This agreement is the first stroke in making an audacious vision a reality,” Forterra Executive Vice President Michelle Connor said in a press release issued before the organization’s annual awards breakfast that day. Some 1,800 people were expected to attend.

“It is a great credit to the many elected leaders, Tribes, agency staff, community stakeholders and the landowner who are acting to ensure a positive legacy for the future,” she said.

The so-called shoreline block was purchased for approximately $4.5 million, Forterra reported, with funding provided by the National Coastal Wetlands Program, state Department of Ecology, state Wildlife and Recreation Program and state Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account.

The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project is a longtime effort to conserve 6,700 acres and 1.8 miles of shoreline in north Kitsap County. The forests and shorelines have cultural significance to local Tribes and communities; draw thousands of outdoor recreationists annually; and support fish and wildlife in the integrated ecological and watershed systems of Port Gamble Bay, Hood Canal and Central Puget Sound.

Any land and shoreline acquired will be maintained as community forest, public open space, recreation and wildlife habitat. Conservation easements will be placed on any acquired land and shoreline to protect the bay and its watershed.

Advocates say conservation of the properties will assure protection for and access to the forests that contribute to the health of the Port Gamble and Hood Canal watersheds.

“The Kitsap Forest and Bay Project is a win for our environment and our community,” said Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, Pope Resources’ real estate arm.

“This agreement is an important milestone in our six-year partnership with the community. We look forward to continuing to work together to achieve great outcomes for the remaining forest lands.”

Forterra expects to complete the work necessary to purchase the shoreline this summer. At closing, Forterra will assign ownership of the conserved forestland to Kitsap County and the tidelands to state Department of Natural Resources for long-term stewardship and management.

After closing, the county and DNR will begin the process to determine what the public access plan is and assign different stewardship roles, said Liz Johnston, Forterra’s conservation transactions director. The owners will work with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe and the community.

“We are looking forward to continuing projects with Pope Resources, and conserving as much of the forestland as possible surrounding the bay,” Johnston said.

The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project is supported by Kitsap County, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, Forterra, Great Peninsula Conservancy and many community groups. The parties must finalize fundraising and complete the purchase of the remaining forestlands by March 2014.

Status of effort

The effort to acquire North Kitsap forestland and shoreline from Pope Resources is a complicated one, involving several funding sources and numerous partners and supporters. The project principals are Kitsap County, Pope Resources, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, and Suquamish Tribe. The coalition is led by Forterra.

Here's a look at where the effort is now, and what to expect in the future.

— The coalition is exercising its option: The Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition’s deadline to decide whether it would buy land and shoreline from Pope Resources was March 28. On that day, the coalition notified Pope Resources it had raised money for acquisition and wanted to exercise the option. If the coalition hadn’t raised any money, it would not have been able to exercise the option. The coalition now has until March 28, 2014 to receive any grant funding it has applied for, and to complete the purchase of Pope Resources’ land. How much land and shoreline the coalition acquires will be determined in negotiations with Pope Resources.

— What is available?: The acreage is divided into five blocks: Port Gamble Upland Block, 3,316 acres; Hansville Block, 1,784 acres; Divide Block, 664 acres; Shoreline Block, 564 acres, including 1.8 miles of shoreline; Heritage Park Expansion Block, 366 acres.

— How much money has been raised?: As of this writing, approximately $12 million.

From the State of Washington: $7 million toward purchase of Port Gamble Bay Shoreline. Distribution of this funding was tied to agreement by Department of Ecology and Pope Resources on a final cleanup plan for Port Gamble Bay.

From U.S. Navy Mitigation Agreement with three S’Klallam bands: $3.05 million toward purchase of Port Gamble Bay Shoreline and/or Port Gamble Upland.

From U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $1 million for acquisition of Port Gamble Bay Shoreline.

From U.S. Forest Service: $400,000 for the Heritage Park Expansion Block.

— How much additional money is pending?: $3.65 million from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for acquisition of Port Gamble Shoreline, Divide Block (Grovers Creek and wetlands), and the Heritage Park Expansion Block.

In addition, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is considering purchasing the Hansville Block on its own.

— Why so much funding for shoreline acquisition?: Shoreline conservation is seen as critical to protecting the health of Port Gamble Bay.

— Who will own what?: Kitsap County will be the owner. Various coalition partners would help manage the land and shoreline as stewards. If the S’Klallam Tribe acquires the Hansville Block on its own, the land would eventually become part of the S’Klallam reservation.

— Why is Pope Resources selling?: Pope Resources is finding it increasingly difficult to log in North Kitsap as population grows near logging areas. By selling its North Kitsap forestland, the company can concentrate on developing the town of Port Gamble into a viable, year-round community.

— How will land and shoreline be used?: As community forest, public open space, recreation and wildlife habitat. Conservation easements will be placed on a acquired land and shoreline to protect the bay and its watershed.

— For more information: www.kitsapforestbay.org.

 

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