Port Gamble Heritage Park timber rights fundraiser underway

82 acres of forest stands already transferred to Kitsap County

Washington land conservation organization Forterra, in partnership with the original Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition, recently launched a community fundraising campaign to purchase 756 acres of timber rights in Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park.

Forterra and Kitsap County closed the first of three transactions, transferring 82 acres of mature forest stands to the county in the northern section of the park along the envisioned Sound to Olympics Trail, a county news release says.

The fundraising campaign aims to raise $500,000 by Oct. 31.

Forterra, the county and Rayonier have entered into a purchase and sale agreement to acquire up to 756 acres of high-priority timber rights, featuring cultural, ecological and recreational values, the release states. When the county acquired the Port Gamble park, the community raised the funds to acquire the land, but not the timber rights on the 2,690-acre upland forest.

Pope Resources, now part of Rayonier, retained 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.

The sale agreement for timber rights could transfer 38% of the remaining timber rights to the county.

“This is an opportunity to further support Kitsap County’s goals, and conserve critical forests with recreational and cultural value. By working closely with the county and our community partners, we continue to make a positive impact on our communities,” said Bill Monahan, director, Western Forest Resources with Rayonier.

The fundraising targets forest areas near trail routes and would assure that mature forests will exist in the near term, per the release. Saving mature timber is meaningful, recognizing the ancestral land for the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish tribes.

“For the Port Gamble S’Klallam, the protection of natural resources has always been a priority. It drives every decision we make, from planned development to fisheries management,” said Jeromy Sullivan, PGST tribal chairman.

Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman said: “The Suquamish Tribe supports the protection (of) the Port Gamble forest lands for the health of the greater ecosystem. A healthy forest is important for improving water quality, preserving wildlife habitat and protecting plants important for food, materials and medicine.”

The purchase enhances recreational space for hikers, joggers, birders, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“By acquiring the 756 acres of timber rights, we 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,” County Commissioner Robert Gelder said.

Between 2014-17, the two tribes, the county and community groups raised money to preserve 3,500 acres of forest with recreational, ecological and cultural value.

“Conserving our forests is a critical tool in the fight against the climate crisis and protecting our high quality of life for all,” said Joe Sambataro, managing director of conservations transactions with Forterra. “We now need the community to come together and raise the necessary funds to secure all 756 acres of forest stands.”

Donations to the campaign can be made at https://bit.ly/portgambleforest.

Funds raised will be matched eight times by county, state and anonymous donor matching funds. Donations go directly toward the price of the timber rights.