A community fundraiser to acquire 756 acres of timber rights at Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park has reached its goal of $500,000 thanks to nearly 500 donors.
Kitsap County and Forterra, the state’s largest land conservation organization, are moving forward with the final phases of the timber rights acquisition from Rayonier, meaning 756 acres of trees will be protected, says the fundraiser’s GoFundMe page.
As of November 15, the campaign has closed on two of three transactions of $3.925 million in county, state, and anonymous donor funds, transferring 687 acres of mature forest stands to Kitsap County. Phase three will close by December 15 on the remaining 69 acres of timber rights, per a county news release.
“It never ceases to amaze me just how generous our community truly is – to rally together in such a short amount of time, to not only meet the goal, but to truly make possible the long-term conservation of additional trees within the park,” County Commissioner Robert Gelder said. “This acquisition will accelerate Kitsap County’s planning goal to transform the park into a more natural, resilient and diverse forest ecosystem that people enjoy, and where wildlife thrive.”
The fundraising targeted forest areas near trail routes and would assure that mature forests will exist in the near term. The purchase will also enhance recreational spaces for hikers, joggers, bird watchers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, a county news release says.
“Transferring these trees to Kitsap County will enable the county to manage the land and transform these stands into healthy forests for climate, community and conservation,” the GoFundMe page reads.
When the county purchased more than 1,500 acres in 2017 to bring the park to nearly 3,500 acres, enough funds were raised to acquire the land but not the timber rights.
Rayonier retains timber rights through 2042 on certain forested areas in the park where harvesting of trees could be accomplished safely and sustainably while allowing recreation and other public benefits to coexist. Rayonier has harvested about 650 acres under that agreement.
Reasons the community raised money to acquire 756 acres of timber rights include:
- The forest is meaningful to the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish tribes
- Purchasing the timber rights protects forest stands that support a diverse community of animals, high productivity for plants and replenishes the water cycle.
- The purchase lays the foundation for the restoration and stewardship necessary to manage fire and disease risk, develop an understory and bring more diversity to the forest.
- The forest is a much beloved recreational space for outdoor enthusiasts.
- The support helped to purchase 38% of the remaining timber rights held by Rayonier to enhance forest health, wildlife habitat and the recreational experience at the park.
Organizations that contributed to the community fundraiser included Our Forest Fund, Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition, Great Peninsula Conservancy, North Kitsap Trails Association and more.