Stewardship plan could be a step forward | In Our Opinion

Kitsap County has drafted a Forest Stewardship Policy that would, if implemented, restore the natural variability in forest conditions that existed prior to the settlement era, resulting in improved fish and wildlife habitat, cleaner water and other ecosystem benefits.

Among the many management practices, the plan would involve thinning, planting, selective cuts and, in the case of natural disaster or pest infestation, variable density thinning and retention harvests. Revenue generated annually from light-thinning harvests is projected to cover the costs of managing Kitsap County’s 6,500 acres of public-use forestland.

This policy will be particularly valuable if the conservation coalition led by Forterra acquires Pope Resources’ 7,000 acres of North Kitsap forestland; any acquired forestland is expected to fall under Kitsap County ownership.

We all benefit from healthier forests and streams. Forested landscapes are critical natural deterrents to surface and stormwater runoff, and are essential to the protection of groundwater recharge areas. Take time to learn about Kitsap County’s proposed Forest Stewardship Policy. The county is accepting public comment this month. You can read and comment on the policy at www.kitsapgov.com/parks. Scroll down to “Forest Stewardship Program.”

The draft policy is the result of 18 months of work by county parks officials, stewardship groups and community volunteers. It’s a comprehensive work: 58 pages of management policy with wildlife habitat assessments and mmaps of ground water and aquifer recharge areas, streams and surface waters, and watersheds.

Why is this plan necessary? Much of Kitsap County’s public parkland is forested, but those forests are not currently managed for health, safety, and habitat and ecosystem diversity. According to the plan: Dense timber stands, common in areas that have been logged, shade out understory plants that provide food and cover for wildlife.

Thinning and reforestation will provide young forest stands with a wide diversity of grass, forbs, woody shrubs and trees for food and cover. This will encourage a diversity of animal species. Improving the stands will help open up the forest canopy to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor so that the understory will be stimulated, developed and perpetuated as foraging, nesting and thermal cover for all wildlife species. This will also result in a forest plant diversity that is necessary for the protection of soil, water, fish and wildlife resources. Density thinning and harvests will generate revenue to help pay for forest management.

This could be a model plan. We congratulate all those involved in the development of this plan and encourage its adoption.


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