Opponents to aerial spray of herbicides retain lawyer

HANSVILLE — An environmental group has formed with the intent to challenge a plan from Pope Resources to spray herbicides from a helicopter on 330 acres of timberland. They met Wednesday at the Greater Hansville Community Center.

There, they laid out a plan to file an appeal with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on Thursday.

“The process we’re about to enter tomorrow is a five or a six-month process,” Randi Strong-Petersen, one of the group’s founders, said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It involves the state attorney general’s office and probably Pope’s legal counsel.”

Representing the Kitsap Environmental Coalition will be Piper Thornburgh, whose retainer was paid for by a GoFundMe page that gathered more than $5,000 in a little over a week. At the meeting, Thornburgh said Pope had managed to skirt more stringent environmental review from the Washington State Department of Ecology by breaking up areas being sprayed into smaller swaths, thereby not triggering a closer review under the State Environmental Policy Act.

Thornburgh said that after the coalition filed an appeal on Thursday, she would be requesting Pope hold off spraying through the appeals process; however, if Pope doesn’t cooperate, Thornburgh said she would file a formal motion to hold off spraying.

In a later interview, Adrian Miller, Pope’s director of administration and corporate affairs, said the company recognizes and is listening to the concerns raised by the community and the coalition. However, Pope will fight an appeal to DNR and would not entertain requests by the coalition to hold off spraying until the appeals process concludes, he said.

“If there is a stay or injunction filed, we will vigorously defend our permit, and if a stay or injunction is approved, we will follow the law,” Miller said.

Ultimately, Strong-Petersen said, she thought Pope would do right by the residents of Hansville.

“I believe at the bottom of my heart that they’re paying attention, that they’re shocked,” she said. “I have to believe that since they have been so prominent in this community for so long and are so involved and so deep with the tribe, that they — at some point — are going to do the right thing.

“At the end of the day, they are a publicly held, NASDAQ-traded corporation with stockholders that probably don’t really care,” she added.

Pam Keeley, a founder of the group and a seasoned activist, said the Kitsap Environmental Coalition was poised to give Pope Resources a serious run for their money.

“We’re incredibly organized. We have an army with a battle plan, and the fight is on,” she said.

The group will be holding additional meetings on Aug. 29 and on Sept. 5. More information can be found on the Kitsap Environmental Coalition’s Facebook page.

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

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