STAVIS BAY: Seabeck woodlands targeted for safekeeping - DNR wants to designate it a Natural Resources Conservation Area

By Marietta Nelson
Bremerton Sun Staff

Published in The Sun: 07/16/2002

Bremerton, WA - The DNR will host a meeting Wednesday to discuss the Stavis area.

Hundreds of years ago, as winter rains ended, the Twana pushed their red
cedar canoes into the waters of the Hood Canal at Duckabush and Dosewallips
and paddled to Stavis Bay.

They camped along Harding Creek, harvesting fallen logs to make canoes and
baskets. Rarely did the Twana cut down trees, leaving behind stands of
old-growth Douglas firs, western hemlocks and evergreen huckleberry.

Those stands, surrounding land and Stavis Creek survive today in what is
known as Kitsap Forest, considered to be the highest quality examples of its
kind and a rare example of a mature, old- growth forest in Puget Sound's

The state Department of Natural Resources wants to give the area wide
protection from logging or development by designating it the Stavis Natural
Resources Conservation Area.

But some property owners within the area north of Nellita and West Albert
Plundt roads and west of Seabeck-Holly Road around Stavis Bay worry their
property is in jeopardy. And local property-rights advocates argue the
special designation would exempt too much acreage from the property-tax

"We feel there is more than enough land put aside for future generations,"
said Vivian Henderson, of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners. "We
believe in protecting the environment and our natural resources, but we also
believe that when you take too much land off the existing tax rolls the
burden is put on other taxpayers."

To gather comment from area residents and others, DNR officials will host a
public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Seabeck Elementary School.

State Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland will decide on whether to
designate the tract as a natural resource conservation area at the end of

DNR's process to preserve the area began in 1994 when 645 acres was deemed a
natural area preserve, now called Kitsap Forest. DNR now owns nearly all of
Kitsap Forest.

In 2000, DNR made public plans to put an additional 2,100 acres into the
Stavis Natural Resources Conservation Area around the forest.

Chris Chappell, an ecologist with DNR's Natural Heritage program, said the
Stavis area contains, along with Kitsap Forest, several major ecosystems
uncorrupted by development or logging - rare in Puget Sound.

The coastal lagoon and estuary in Stavis Bay provides a place where fresh
and salt waters mix - especially important for salmon. Stavis Creek, its
headwaters and its banks are in better condition for salmon than most Puget
Sound streams. Kitsap Forest, with its firs and hemlocks, is part of less
than 1 percent of the original Puget Sound lowland forest that remains.

"It's rare to find these still in the Puget lowlands, between the Olympics
and Cascades, where most of the people in the state live," he said.

Don Paulson, a Seabeck resident who favors the special designation, said he
feels a "moral obligation" to preserve the Stavis area.

"When you consider the plight of the salmon, I think this is a perfect
opportunity to preserve an important stream that is virtually intact," said
Paulson, who added that preservation is a "quality-of-life issue for me,
too, to retain that open space."

DNR Natural Areas Manager Kelly Heintz said a special designation for Stavis
won't take away property rights. It gives DNR permission to buy the land for
a fair price from people who want to sell.

But, "if it's developed, it's lost forever," she said.

Bob Winslow, who works with DNR to acquire land, said it's nearly impossible
to estimate the land and timber values in the vast area. Winslow said DNR
would purchase property parcel by parcel over a span of decades. Independent
appraisals will determine the values of individual parcels as they come up
for sale.

Still, said Henderson, several property owners in the area worry DNR will
buy land surrounding their homes and cut off road easements.

Henderson said the property alliance has sent a letter to Sutherland urging
him not to accept the designation.

"We have a serious problem with this," she said.

Public hearing

To gather comments about the proposal to create the Stavis Natural Resources
Conservation Area, state Department of Natural Resources officials will
conduct a public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Seabeck Elementary
School, 15565 Seabeck Highway.

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