Opinion

Kitsap Forest & Bay project: Where it stands | In Our Opinion

The effort to acquire 7,000 acres of North Kitsap forestland and shoreline from Pope Resources is a complicated effort involving many partners, funding sources and deadlines. This editorial aims to clarify the status of the effort — what’s happening 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 complete any acquisition.

The coalition did not receive a one-year extension on its option, as some coalition partners reported. The option period has ended. The coalition has one year 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.
— 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.
— U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $1 million for acquisition of Port Gamble Bay Shoreline.
— 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.

— Who are the coalition partners?: Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy), Kitsap County, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Puget Sound Partnership, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and 25 other agencies, cities and organizations. For a complete list, go to www.kitsapforestbay.org.

The project principals are Kitsap County, Pope Resources, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, and Suquamish Tribe. The coalition is led by Forterra.

 

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