Extensive logging in Hansville raises concerns among residents

HANSVILLE — Extensive logging on forestry lands owned by Pope Resources near Hansville has raised concern among some residents that trees along the Hansville Greenway Trail could be next to fall.

Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, Pope’s real estate development subsidiary said Pope Resources has been harvesting on a number of their properties around Hansville. Rose said the main reason for the harvest is simply that it’s time to cut.

“You’ve gotta cut the trees when they’re ready to be cut,” Rose said, explaining that trees around the ages of between 35 and 42 prove to be the most “merchantable.”

Pope Resources, Rose said, is operating well within their right to cut down the trees on their land as well as the ones beside the greenway trail.

“The community did not buy any timber, they only paid us for a trail easement, they didn’t pay for anything else,” Rose said. “That was clear and on the table that this is currently a tree farm and if you don’t want us to cut, you need to buy the trees.”

“We’re not going to cut on anything that we sold, but we could cut on anything we own,” Rose added.

Rose also said that logging along Hansville Road and Little Boston Road could potentially make room for real estate development in the future, but added that no such plan is currently in place.

“We don’t have any definitive plans for any kind of development going forward at the moment,” Rose said. “Over 10 years ago, we took that whole Hansville property and broke it up into 20-acre lots. All of the lots are existing and they’re already created, so we could start selling them tomorrow if we wanted to.”

Pope Resources’ director of administration and corporate affairs, Adrian Miller, said it looks like Pope will be replanting after harvesting in Hansville has concluded.

“We replant, certainly within two years, probably 99 percent of our harvest units,” Miller said. “Even if there wasn’t a regulation requiring replanting, Pope Resources would replant anyway. It’s in our interest to reforest as quickly as possible.”

According to Miller, between December 2016 and February 2018 Pope Resources received Department of Natural Resources approval for harvest permits for harvesting activities on about 500 acres of their Hansville-area holdings. Miller was quick to point out that while Pope opens many of their trails and forest lands to the public while they are not conducting harvest operations, members of the public are asked keep out of the active units.

Art Ellison serves as treasurer for the Hansville Greenway Association. Ellison, who previously worked as a forester for the US Forest Service said the Greenway Association reached out to Pope in order to better understand the scope of their logging operations in the area. Pope responded with a letter explaining the operations, which has since been posted to the greenway association’s Facebook page. Ellison encourages any concerned residents to refer to the letter before inquiring about the operations.

According to Ellison, some walkers along the greenway have even begun taking down ribbons they see on trees beside the trail, presumably fearing that the trees have been marked for removal. Ellison said this is not the case.

“Apparently some people have been going up there and pulling the flagging off the trees, figuring they’re going to stop stuff. Well, that costs Pope money, then they have to go back there and redo it. According to them, it’s not scheduled to be cut for several years but if people keep moving ribbons, they’ll just go cut it now.”

Ellison also noted that the flagging on the trees is likely not to mark which trees to cut down, but rather which ones should be left as a border to the trail.

“We have a lot of people moving into the community that do not understand property rights. They say, ‘well there should be something to keep them from cutting those trees,’ and I say, ‘what don’t you understand about this is their land, they are a timber management company, yes they can cut it,’” Ellison said.

In December 2017, the final 1,500-acre chunk of Pope-owned property in Port Gamble, the last piece of the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project was secured by a coalition of groups seeking to preserve the forestry lands for future generations. The acquisition was the final step in a project which ultimately acquired a total of 4,000 acres and was the culmination of a decade of work between the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Forterra, Great Peninsula Conservancy and numerous other nonprofits and community donors.

Initially, some 4,000 acres of Pope-owned land in Hansville was included as part of the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project, but it became apparent that the inclusion of these lands would be cost-prohibitive. The project instead chose to focus on the land around Port Gamble. Ever since it was trimmed from the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project, Rose said no group has yet come forward seeking to preserve the forestry lands in Hansville.

“There’s been no community groups that have expressed any interest in Hansville,” Rose said. “Although we’ve made that all available to them, nobody really came forward as a community group and said, ‘we want to go out and try to raise money for this Hansville property.’”

Rose did indicate that he would be open to a meeting if such a group were to organize, but he added the caveat that the group would need to bring a solid plan to the table for how it would go about acquiring the lands.

“There really needs to be some sort of a demonstrable plan,” Rose said. “Not just a, ‘hey we want to do this,’ because [the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project] took 10 years.”

Over the course of the 10 years that Pope Resources worked with the coalition and community members to complete the project, Pope spent over $1 million worth of staff, lawyer, surveyor and engineer time, Rose said.

“That is a very high cost of sale. So we need to see that somebody is not only willing but capable of doing something,” Rose said.

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com