Work is progressing rapidly around the edges of the Kitsap
Forest & Bay Project — an effort to protect a 7,000-acre mosaic
of lowland forest, shorelines and wetlands in North Kitsap.
Pope Resources lands for sale
Click to enlarge
The ecological values of the undeveloped landscape is becoming
known among government officials and the public. So far, nobody has
jumped in with millions of dollars to buy the land for
conservation. But, as the year comes to a close, there are plenty
of reasons for optimism among supporters.
When I consider what it will take to make this project happen, I
keep thinking of a jigsaw puzzle. I realize the puzzle metaphor is
overworked, but let’s stay with it. A good way to begin picture
puzzles is by first lining up all the edges and later filling in
the middle. To me, that is what is happening with the Kitsap Forest
& Bay Project.
First, Forterra — formerly Cascade Land Conservancy — has
embraced the project, bringing to the table extensive experience in
acquiring lands for conservation purposes. When an option to buy
the land from Pope Resources was announced, Forterra president Gene
Duvernoy stated, “This is probably the most important project we
can accomplish to save Puget Sound.” See
Kitsap Sun, Oct. 17.
Another major step came recently when the Puget Sound
Partnership released a draft of its Puget Sound Action Agenda. The
Action Agenda is designed to recognize the most important
preservation and restoration actions that can be taken in the next
two years. Although the actions have not yet been lined up in
priority, the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project was called out as a
high-priority action. Read the story with links in
Kitsap Sun, Dec. 21.
Something similar happened in the first Action Agenda in 2008,
when the Partnership called for the acquisition and restoration of
lands in the Nisqually River delta. The value was so highly
considered that some action areas agreed to delay their own
projects to move Nisqually to fruition. Perhaps something like that
will happen for the North Kitsap lands. Check out the video
“The Nisqually Estuary Returns.”
KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn visited the North Kitsap property
and produced a radio piece that outlines the value of the 7,000
acres and discusses the potential acquisition. She did a nice job,
as you can see on
Michelle Connor, executive vice president of Forterra, said
Ashley’s story will help spread the word about the project
throughout the state and beyond.
“This is something that the Kitsap community has known for a
long time,” Michelle told me. “Now other people are catching up
with us. There is nothing comparable in the Puget Sound
Further bolstering the project is an upcoming study that will
examine the ecological values of the 7,000 acres, including nearly
two miles of undeveloped shoreline.
A grant of $270,000 will be used to characterize ecosystem
values across the landscape and determine which areas are best
suited for preservation, forestry and possibly development. A
portion of the grant will be used to decide whether revenues can be
generated from timber harvest without upsetting the ecological
integrity of the region.
The $270,000 study was part of some $6.3 million provided by the
EPA’s National Estuary Program for 23 grants earmarked for
protecting and restoring Puget Sound watersheds. See
Kitsap Sun, Dec. 23.
Acquisition funding for the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project will
depend on a variety of public grants and private donations, each
with their own requirements. At the same time, the 7,000 acres
under discussion contains a variety of small ecosystems that could
qualify for one or more restoration and preservation grants.
The 7,000-acre jigsaw puzzle is rather formidable and almost
overwhelming, but Michelle Connor is undaunted. Her optimism is
infectious. Few people know as much about public conservation
grants and philanthropic efforts, and Michelle has an army of
people behind her.
The clear strategy moving forward is to assemble this massive
puzzle — with all its shapes and colors — one piece at a time.
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