By Christopher Dunagan
original article posted October 23, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.

PORT ORCHARD — A new committee to oversee forest management within Kitsap County’s largest parks has been authorized by the Kitsap County commissioners.

The committee, to be formed soon, is planned as a subcommittee of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board with additional members coming from voluntary stewardship groups working in the various county parks.

The county commissioners Monday night approved a new stewardship program that would allow selective thinning, planting and restoration work in county heritage parks. The goal is to improve overall ecosystem health. The program would begin with a four-year pilot project, to be evaluated annually before moving forward.

County Commissioner Josh Brown said he understands that timber harvesting in county parks is a “sensitive issue,” but the rationale spelled out in a policy document establishes a strong rationale for improving the health of local forests.

Parks director Jim Dunwiddie said he would work with the parks board to put the advisory committee together. The goal would be to come up with a plan of action for the pilot program by early next year.

“It’s not many times when we can be involved in a process that people can look back on 100 years from now and know we made a difference,” Dunwiddie said.

As proposed, restoration work would be funded by timber revenues with no expenditures from the county’s overall budget. A separate “revenue fund” would be set up to ensure that all the money goes back into the parks. The fund would receive a loan of $154,000 to get the project going. That money would be paid back within three years. The county commissioners are expected to approve the fund and startup loan when adopting the county budget before the end of the year.

“It is great to move forward with stewardship of the properties we have without impacting the general fund,” said Commissioner Rob Gelder, complimenting all who were involved in drafting the policy document approved Monday.

Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said some “wonderful ideas” were included in the document, but she would like to see a formal business plan and measures to evaluate the program before work proceeds on county parkland.

Used with permission from Kitsap Sun: