Pope Resources, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe enter into historic land deal

Pope Resources and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe have entered into a stewardship agreement which will see the sale of some 937 acres of forestlands to the tribe, along with an 18.4 acre conservation easement along the shores of the former Port Gamble Mill site.

Adrian Miller, vice president of corporate affairs and administration, said Pope Resources will continue to retain logging rights on the properties for some time to come.

“We’ve retained timber harvest rights on portions of the property for up to 15 years,” Miller said. “There’s some exceptions to that, where the tribe did purchase some mature timber but the majority of the mature timber we’re retaining for exactly one more rotation.”

Miller explained that while the group was selling approximately two-thirds of its property in Hansville, he noted that Pope Resources would keep about one-third of its eastern holdings. He described the portion to be retained as spanning from Little Boston Road, running north to the Hansville Greenway Trail. When asked what the company had in store for the one-third to be kept, Miller said business as usual would continue in that area and Pope would continue commercial forestry operations.

According to Miller, current zoning allows for the sale of parcels no smaller than 20 acres and Pope could decide to sell at any point. One caveat to that possibility is the fact that if Pope does decide to reclassify the property, the company would have to pay back tax on the converted lands.

“Today, Pope Resources — on the lands we continue to own — could sell 20-acre lots which could be developed,” Miller explained. “If you change the zoning of the property … you would have to essentially pay the higher tax rate back several years.”

Miller also noted that due to the classification of the most recent harvest operations, the company would not be able to convert the property until six years had passed from the last harvest.

In addition to another timber harvest, Pope has also retained the right to apply herbicides on the Hansville properties as well.

“Like all of the properties we own and manage, we make site-specific decisions with respect to the need to use herbicides,” Miller said. “That would be the same case for the land subject to the timber reservation.”

In 2018, Pope Resources came under fire from environmental groups after obtaining a permit to aerially spray the controversial chemical glyphosate on its holdings in Hansville. Organizers with the Kitsap Environmental Coalition claimed that the application posed a serious health risk to nearby residents, citing recent court rulings alleging glyphosate’s link to cancer.

When asked if the company could continue to apply glyphosate, Miller said there was no stipulation in the agreement with the tribe which would preclude the use of any specific product.

As for what the lands sold to the tribe will be used for, Ginger Vaughan, a spokesperson for the tribe said, “the Tribe’s main goal in purchasing the land was to protect it from large-scale development.”

“Future uses for the land are currently under discussion and it’ll likely be some time before there are any plans to share,” Vaughn said. “There’s lots of time to make these decisions”