Kitsap Forest and Bay Community Campaign
Conserved: 1,500 acres of the Port Gamble Forest.
In 2017 Forterra acquired over 1,500 more acres of the Port Gamble Forest from Pope Resources, completing a decade-long project that has conserved 4,000 acres for recreation, restoration, cultural heritage, and habitat. Kitsap County will be the long-term owner. Read the press release.
A Community-Wide Effort
Community support drove the work to preserve the Port Gamble Forest. Regional leaders from the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes, Kitsap County government, and Outdoor Research guided the work. Forterra managed the project. User-group constituents including the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, North Kitsap Trails Association, Kitsap Audubon Society, and the Great Peninsula Conservancy also provide support.
Why Port Gamble Forest Matters
It is estimated that by 2024, our region’s population will grow by 24%, placing undeveloped lands under increasing pressure to absorb this growth. The Port Gamble Forest, over six times the size of Seattle’s Discovery Park, is now publicly owned and protected.
The land is of great cultural significance. For more than 1,400 years, the lands and waters of Port Gamble Bay have provided fundamental cultural, spiritual, and subsistence resources to the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish Tribes. In 1855, the U.S. transferred Port Gamble land away from tribal control. Although the forest became privately controlled timberland, the bay’s plentiful marine resources have remained an important food source for native residents. One hundred and fifty years later, the Kitsap Forest and Bay Community Campaign honors the history and resilience of the tribes by returning and restoring the land as a protected forest.
Native Forest and Healthy Wildlife Habitat
The oldest, largest trees and the most sensitive areas on the property are now protected. The rest of the property, which has been managed for timber production for over 160 years, will move to restoration forestry over the next 25 years, increasing the health and resiliency of the land for future generations.
Bears, coyotes, deer, and birds such as the hairy woodpecker and red-breasted sapsucker live in the Port Gamble Forest, one of the largest lowland forests in the Hood Canal watershed. Uphill from the recently conserved Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park, the forest is part of a critical watershed for Port Gamble Bay and its marine ecosystem, laying the foundation for healthy habitats for forage fish and salmon. The forest is critical in supporting interconnected food chains throughout Port Gamble, Hood Canal, and Central Puget Sound watersheds.
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A Recreational Paradise
The 3,000 acre Port Gamble Forest, only a nine minute-bike ride from the Kingston ferry, is a community treasure and cultural resource for the entire Puget Sound region. The Port Gamble Forest’s enormous size and proximity to surrounding metropolitan areas makes it an ideal year-round recreation destination. Over 20,000 hikers, bird watchers, mountain bikers, equestrians, cyclists, and runners use the area during the year.
The Sound to Olympics Trail, a regional shared-use trail that crosses Kitsap County and connects to the Olympic Discovery Trail and Cross State Trail, will run through the property, accommodating cyclists, runners, equestrians, bird watchers, and people of all ages and abilities. A 200-acre mountain bike park with riding loops and skill obstacles will provide opportunities for families to enjoy healthy outdoor recreation together.
Improving Economic Vitality
The Port Gamble Forest will boost economic growth for neighboring communities. The forest’s recreational opportunities, coupled with its proximity to the historic town of Port Gamble, a National Historic Landmark, will encourage visitors and travelers to stay and spend. Long-term stewardship of the property will create jobs and forest products while helping restore the forest to its natural state. The presence of a healthy forest will raise the quality of life for all and attract new residents to Kitsap County.
The Bigger Picture
The work to preserve Port Gamble Forest is part of a larger effort that has leveraged over $7 million in federal, state, tribal and local funds. Because of this project, more than 1,000 acres of forest and shoreline of the Kitsap Peninsula are now in public ownership. The purchase of Port Gamble Forest was the final and acquisition for the project.
Support for this project included funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation granted through The Nature Conservancy to identify and protect Pacific Northwest lands that will provide resiliency in the face of climate change. Additionally, Kitsap County, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Great Peninsula Conservancy, North Kitsap Trails Association, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance West Sound Chapter, Kitsap Audubon Society, the State Department of Ecology, and a coalition of 30 local and state agencies, businesses, and community groups worked in partnership to help secure this vast expanse of land that will help sustain our region’s quality of life, environmental health, and economic vitality.