Hikers explore Secret Squirrel trail in the Port Gamble Forest, in April. Some 3,000 acres of the Port Gamble Forest are at risk of being sold and developed, causing the forest to become fragmented and limiting public access. Forterra / Courtesy

Hikers explore Secret Squirrel trail in the Port Gamble Forest, in April. Some 3,000 acres of the Port Gamble Forest are at risk of being sold and developed, causing the forest to become fragmented and limiting public access. Forterra / Courtesy

Join seven campaign co-chairs in saving the Port Gamble Forest | Noo-Kayet

The Kitsap Forest & Bay Project, which I’ve discussed before, is a conservation effort targeting 6,700 acres of land in North Kitsap in an unprecedented partnership between Kitsap County, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, Forterra, Great Peninsula Conservancy and landowner Pope Resources, as well as various community, recreational and environmental groups.

Since 2011, the project has raised more than $7 million in federal, state, tribal and local funds. With it, 1,076 acres of forest and 1.5 miles of Port Gamble Bay’s western shoreline have been conserved.

Last year, under the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project, Forterra helped launch a dedicated effort to secure the purchase of a 3,000-acre land block known as the Port Gamble Forest. In order to purchase this property, $3.5 million must be raised by 2017.

The Port Gamble S’Klallam have a unique and unbreakable connection to this land and Port Gamble Bay. For generations, the Port Gamble S’Klallam have harvested fish and shellfish from the bay and hunted and gathered on adjacent lands.

Today, Port Gamble S’Klallams — myself included — still feed their families, make a living and celebrate our culture by practicing the rights affirmed under the Treaty of Point No Point.

I’ve written in this column before about the value my Tribe puts on planning for the future. For example, every decision we make considers the next seven generations. The reason why is quite simple: The Port Gamble S’Klallams have lived in this area for well over 1,000 years and we have every expectation to be here well into the next millennium, thriving in our culture and traditions. There’s a reason we’re known as “the Strong People.”

The work being done by the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project helps to assure this future for the Port Gamble S’Klallams. It means that my children’s children and generations beyond will be able to practice our traditional ways, harvesting from the surrounding waters, and continuing to act as stewards of the same forest, land, and sea that connects them to their ancestors.

Of course, whether or not the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project is successful in this latest endeavor should be important to anyone who cherishes the beauty of the Port Gamble Forest. While this property has been used to harvest timber for more than 160 years, it is also used by the countless thousands who visit the trails to hike, bike, bird watch or just be close to the natural world.

If this land were sold and developed, it would forever change the landscape of Kitsap County while greatly diminishing options for outdoor recreation.

With the July 2017 fundraising deadline approaching, more good progress is being made. Since April, a broad range of supporters have pledged more than $600,000.

If you want to help save the Port Gamble Forest, three local donors have made it easy with the Winter Community Match Challenge. Through Dec. 31, donations received through www.Forterra.org/give-to-kitsap will be matched up to a total of $75,000.

For more information on this campaign and upcoming events, including some guided hiking tours in November and December, visit www.savePG.org.

We hope you’ll join us in saving the Port Gamble Forest.

On behalf of myself, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and the campaign co-chairs:

Jeromy Sullivan, chairman, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

Robert Gelder, Kitsap County Board of County Commissioners.

Leonard Forsman, chairman, Suquamish Tribe.

Robert Jones, Robert L Jones Architectural Design.

Ken Meidell, CEO, DaKine.

Michelle Connor, executive VP of Strategic Enterprises, Forterra.

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