One opportunity to get it right
A project with the potential to shape the future of the entire Kitsap Peninsula
The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project is an effort to conserve up to 6,700 acres of forest, wetlands and shoreline surrounding Port Gamble Bay in north Kitsap County. This historic opportunity to improve our region’s quality of life, environmental health and economic vitality was recognized Monday with a VISION 2040 Award from the Puget Sound Regional Council.
The Project has the potential to shape the future of the entire Kitsap Peninsula—the protected forestland and shoreline will serve as a backbone to a regional land and water trail system, giving residents and visitors educational and recreational opportunities throughout the peninsula.
Broad commitment and enthusiasm from a dedicated community working to make the Project’s vision a reality sets this apart from other conservation projects.
The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project first gained momentum in October 2011 when 100 people gathered to celebrate the signing of an Option Agreement between Forterra and Pope Resources, giving the community time to secure funds to purchase up to 6,700 acres. Standing at the pavilion by Port Gamble Bay’s blue waters, representatives from Kitsap County, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Great Peninsula Conservancy, Forterra and Pope Resources each spoke about why this effort was important to them.
The Project will enrich the quality of life for the residents and help ensure a sustainable future as the region grows:
Hood Canal and Central Puget Sound are important ecological systems that influence Port Gamble Bay.
The Bay provides spawning habitat for the second largest stock of Pacific herring in Puget Sound, a federal species of concern. Forage fish are a critical link in the marine food chain, providing an energy-rich food source for larger fish like salmon, marine birds and marine mammals—even orca whales rely on forage fish.
The Project area also provides critical year-round open water and seasonal habitat, including wintering for waterfowl and waterbirds. Port Gamble Bay and Hood Canal are on two of the seven Great Washington State Birding Trail routes—the Olympic and Puget Loops. Conservation of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and other vital habitat for resident and migratory birds is critical for the long-term health of their populations.
The acquisition will contribute to the protection of the Usual and Accustomed Indian Fishing Grounds for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and Suquamish Tribe and serve as a significant asset for the community. Harvest of clams, oysters and crabs from the reservation tidelands helps make up a large percentage of the tribal diet for members which live on the reservation. Shellfish has also played a central role in tribal gatherings—from naming ceremonies and funerals to elder honorings and potlatches.
The Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail is part of the regional Cascadia Marine Trail and National Water Trails System and draws thousands of outdoor recreationists annually. The Project has added 1.5 miles of public shoreline access and will add critical links to the Sound to Olympics Trail—a regional shared-use trail across Kitsap County that will connect to the Olympic Discovery Trail and Washington State Parks’ Cross-State Trail.
The Project also contributes to the local economy by providing jobs in eco-tourism and recreation—helping to capture some of the nearly $21.6 billion spent annually on outdoor recreation in the state of Washington—while protecting fishing and shellfish harvesting jobs for the region.
Over $7 million has been invested and countless volunteer hours spent raising awareness and lobbying legislators in Olympia. Today over 1,000 acres are in public ownership and the community is taking part in shaping the management plans for those parks. But this is just the beginning. We are also working to add:
Over 3,000 acres of forest
A large part of the remaining puzzle is the protection of more than 3,000 acres of forestland south of Port Gamble. Diverse plans are in the works for this land, including a new mountain bike park. The Project hopes to complete the protection of this property over the next few years with progress already being made—Forterra and Pope Resources signed a Purchase and Sale Agreement today for several hundred acres next to the Park, with hopes of completing the sale in late summer.
484-acre community forest
Next to the 175-acre Grovers Creek Preserve is a project, pending legislative funding, of the Department of Natural Resources Community Forest Trust Program. It hopes to establish a community forest—only the second in Washington—to protect this habitat and working forestland from development.
I’m inspired and humbled by the dedication of the community. I’m confident that this broad-based collaboration combined with our creativity in funding the Project will enable us to succeed in protecting these lands for all time.