Meeting over spraying of herbicides gets contentious

Pope Resources met with Hansville residents for first time.

In their first public meeting since recent backlash against Pope Resources’ intent to aerially spray herbicides on more than 330 acres south of Hansville, officials with the company met with locals in an attempt to assuage the concerns of those who have spoken out against the spraying.

Jon Rose, vice president of Pope’s real estate branch, was at the meeting. He assured the packed audience that their voices had been heard. Rose said that the spraying of herbicides was not the preferred method of preventing noxious weed growth on Pope’s harvest units.

“We’d rather not [spray],” Rose said. “It’s scary for people, it’s risky for us, it’s expensive.”

Rose added that in the past, the method for managing noxious weeds was to conduct a controlled burn on harvest units before planting — something the vice president regarded as “really, really effective.”

“It didn’t use any chemicals,” he said, “but it was upsetting.”

At the meeting, Rose detailed Pope’s history with working with the residents of Hansville, including the 10-year effort started in 2007 to attempt to sell 1,775 acres of their timber holdings in Hansville.

“We asked the question, ‘Do you guys want to work with us on buying our land? Because we’d love to leave a legacy in the birthplace of our company,’” Rose said. “We had almost no interest from Hansville.”

Mike Mackelwich, vice president of timberland operations, gave a presentation about the importance of Washington’s working forests. Mackelwich noted to the audience that Pope’s forests work to sequester carbon in the atmosphere and provide materials used in many consumer products.

“If everybody’s dead, nobody is going to buy your trees,” said someone in the audience as Mackelwich was giving his presentation. This prompted Rose to take control of the microphone and rebuff the commenter.

“We agreed that we are going to be able to make a presentation, without pot-shots from the audience,” Rose said, as a round of applause swelled in agreement with his reprimand.

Griffin Chamberlain, manager for the Hood Canal harvest area, followed Mackelwich and explained that Pope had intended to spray chemical concentrations that were below the allowable limits listed on the labels. Adrian Miller, Pope’s director of administration and corporate affairs, provided information to the audience on the governing bodies for forest practice laws and how they may contact them.

“It’s easy for me to stand up here and say, ‘Hey, it’s legal.’ That’s not going to be a satisfactory answer to a lot of people here,” Miller said.

“Many of you probably know that the Environmental Protection Agency is the agency that regulates the use of these products,” he said, eliciting a number of groans and exaggerated eye-rolling from numerous members of the audience. “I know, nobody loves EPA right now, but an administration ago people loved them,” Miller joked.

Following Miller’s presentation, the meeting took on a question and answer format.

Many raised concerns for the group’s intent to spray the chemical glyphosate. Miller continued to point to the governing bodies for forest practices and the laws which he said Pope Resources continues to follow.

“I have to make decisions and recommendations based on science and the law. I understand that there’s different opinions about the philosophy of forest management and I get that. … You do have a voice, and it’s good to talk to me and it’s good for me to hear that, but it’s more important for the people and the boards and your elected officials,” he explained.

Randi Strong-Petersen, one of the opposition organizers with the Kitsap Environmental Coalition, said after the meeting she was unsatisfied with the responses from Pope.

“I think it was a dog-and-pony show to try and make them feel better about dropping poison out of a helicopter,” Strong-Petersen said. While she said some questions had been answered, and the speakers did a great job, she felt that the representatives misrepresented many facts.

Last Friday, Pope Resources announced that the group would hold off on spraying any herbicides until after the Kitsap Environmental Coalition’s appeal had been reviewed by the Pollution Control Hearings Board. Strong-Petersen said the group would continue to prepare in advance of the February meeting.

“I think our group is going to be focused on preparing for the [Pollution Control] Hearings Board in February because we have lots of work to do to get ready for that.”

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with the North Kitsap Herald. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soudnpublishing.com

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