First Project Success!

756 acres of trees, which would have been clearcut, will now continue to grace the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park (PGFHP) forever. This is thanks to the generosity and vision of the community, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, several family foundations, and county & state officials. How did this happen?

Our Concept: Protect Forests by Buying Timber Rights

In 2017, Kitsap County had acquired what is now the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park from Pope Resources. To secure the near 3500 acres of land, the county agreed to Pope’s retention of timber rights to most of the park. However – and very importantly — the terms included an option to purchase timber rights in the future.

Monopoly community chest filled with forestOver the next 21 years, much of this park in north Kitsap County is to be clearcut one last time. We thought, if Our Forest Fund could raise the money to buy the timber rights, the forest could be conserved in perpetuity.

Recognizing that the forest in its current condition is a plantation, thinning for forest health would be needed. The gain will be a healthy forest and its ecosystem services that will stay in the community chest forever.

Given that we all 3 have a long association with the park and live very close to it, we chose the trees of this forest park to be Our Forest Fund’s first project.

The Scope of the Project

Map of Port Gamble Park showing tracts of trees save in 2022To save the trees in the park, Our Forest Fund needed to move quickly. As of November 2020, there were only about 1800 acres with timber rights potentially available for sale. And that number continues to be a moving target.

As tracts fall under new harvest plans and logging permits, they would be off the table and the available quantity of trees decreased. You can see in the map the tracts in tan that have already been clearcut.

Timing Is Critical With a Moving Target

That is why we needed to act quickly. Our plan was to complete the purchases within 2 years and save as many trees from clearcut as financially possible. Once purchased, the trees belong to Kitsap County in perpetuity.

A full timber appraisal was necessary to establish an accurate value for the timber. The value estimates we received ranged widely, from as low as $3000 to as high $10,000 per acre (trees only!) Any way you slice it, millions of dollars were needed to buy 1800 acres of trees.

But before Our Forest Fund could get to that point, discussions with Rayonier needed to be opened, and $500,000 was required per the option agreement for that to happen. We wanted to do that before more tracts fell under the timber company’s 5-year logging plans.

The First $500,000…

So we needed to ante up the first $500,000. We set that as our target fundraising goal. We built a website, attended meetings and started building awareness of the project as well as connecting with partners in the community. Our Forest Fund established a designated fund account under Kitsap Community Foundation (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization), so that all donations would be handled legally and appropriately.

WA State Senator Christine Rolfes
WA State Senator Christine Rolfes

Alia spoke with Senator Christine Rolfes, who was able to find $300,000 in the state budget for trees at PGFHP. This, along with support from an anonymous donor to Forterra, put Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder and Forterra in a position to move forward to exercise the option agreement. (Forterra held the option to buy the timber rights in the original land contract Pope Resources.) Forterra and the county then opened negotiations with Rayonier, which had acquired Pope Resources in 2020.

Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder
Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder

In May, 2020, the Commissioner called Our Forest Fund to a meeting with Forterra to let us know that a deal was about to be struck for 756 acres of the remaining trees in the park. The negotiations ran a few months longer than expected, but on August 22, 2022, we were told that the deal was done, and that funding had been found for all but the last $500,000. By that date, we had raised $57,000.

 

…Becomes the Last $500,000

Our Forest Fund was tasked with raising the last half a million dollars by Oct 31. Basically two months.

We didn’t think it was possible, frankly. But the residents of Kitsap County and the surrounding region made it happen. Donations came in from as far away as Denmark. $470,550 was donated to Our Forest Fund! Combined with the $112,478 sent to Forterra directly, not only was the goal met, it was exceeded.

It is very clear to us that people know that conserving forests is absolutely crucial to wildlife habitat, quality of life, and mitigating the climate crisis. The extra funds raised in our first campaign will be rolled over into our next forest conservation project.

We at Our Forest Fund are blown away! We are in awe! Thank you all!