Port Gamble Forest moves one step closer to being protected forever

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1,355 acres in Kitsap County permanently protected for parkland; 1,645 to go

 

SEATTLE – Forterra has assisted Kitsap County’s purchase of 1,355 acres of the Port Gamble Forest Block from Pope Resources—moving one step closer to permanently protecting one of the largest lowland forests in the Hood Canal watershed.

This acquisition was completed on Dec. 31 with $2.3 million in funding from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Ecology is extremely pleased to reach a final agreement and fully fund the purchase of over 1,300 acres of land in the Port Gamble Bay watershed,” said Celina Abercrombie from Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program. “We know this land will be enjoyed by the Port Gamble and surrounding communities for generations to come.”

The acquisition will now triple the size of the widely used Port Gamble Forest Heritage park. And it sets the stage for the Kitsap Forest and Bay Community Campaign’s ongoing efforts to raise the final $3.5 million needed to preserve the remaining 1,645 acres of the Port Gamble Forest for permanent protection.

The 3,000-acre Forest is six times the size of Seattle’s Discovery Park. It serves as a cultural resource for the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes. It provides habitat for bear, coyote and the red-breasted sapsucker. It protects the Port Gamble Bay marine ecosystem. And it offers the community a large, multi-use recreation site.

The Forest Block has served as timber production for over 160 years. Now its owner, Pope Resources, is providing the public with an opportunity to buy back a piece of land that lies at risk for extensive development. Saving the Forest would preserve public access to the entirety of the Forest Block’s 65 miles of trails, where more than 20,000 hikers, birders, mountain bikers, equestrians, cyclists and runners recreate each year.

“Pope Resources has been working with the community since 2007 to come up with creative ways to reposition our timber portfolio out of North Kitsap where development pressures continue to rise,” said Tom Ringo, President and CEO of Pope Resources.  “This transaction allows us to realize development values while providing for continued recreational opportunities and ecological values for the public.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conserve a large piece of open space in a rapidly growing region,” said Michelle Connor, Forterra’s Executive Vice President, Strategic Enterprises. “It’s a place of respite and recreation that so many of us can access—less than an hour from downtown Seattle.”

Sen. Christine Rolfes praised the phenomenal cooperation between the state, county, tribal governments, local and regional advocacy groups and the private sector in completing the transaction. Rep. Sherry Appleton called the acquisition “a testament to the strength of our commitment to the environment. Port Gamble Bay will be cleaned up, and our citizens will recreate there long into the future.”

Conserving natural lands is important, particularly in Kitsap County, an area which has lost land to development at a much higher rate than in other places in Washington State. According to recent research by The Conservation Science Partners, Kitsap County lost 9,383 acres of land to development between 2001 and 2011. That annual rate of loss is 737.2% higher than the rate of loss across the West.

Forterra has been working with regional leaders to rally the community to help secure the purchase of the land. Ecology has made a significant investment in the Port Gamble Bay watershed that has bolstered a strong community effort to permanently protect this land for recreation and conservation.The Kitsap Forest and Bay Community Campaign, which began in April 2016, has raised more than $700,000 from more than 350 individuals. The campaign’s goal is to raise $2.8 million by July 2017.

The acquisition, said Kitsap County Commissioner Robert Gelder, marks a pivotal point in the Kitsap Forest & Bay Campaign.  “The community has been working on this for a good many years, but there is more to do to make this dream a reality.  We have just a few short months to raise the remaining funds before the option agreement ends. Our success will be built upon the generosity of donors throughout the region.”

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