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New approach to tree conservation given consideration

On Monday morning, community forester Jim Trainer was still patiently waiting for an answer to the question he posed to the county more than six months ago.

And he expects to be waiting another six months before all is said and done.

“What I’m working on right now with the county is the Kitsap Heritage Tree Program,” Trainer said. “It’s not that hard to protect a tree during construction. They wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing here in Tacoma or Seattle.”

Trainer, who’s organization, Kitsap Trees, is responsible for much of the tree conservation efforts in Kitsap County, drafted the Heritage Tree Conservation Easement and sent it over to Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent for possible adoption in parts of the county not under city jurisdiction.

Lent was unavailable for comment.

The easement states, in its first line, “the Kitsap Trees’ Easement Agreement provides an option to people who want to legally protect their trees from future development, mal-pruning, or removal.”

Certain trees on public land are protected. A property owner can choose to protect a tree on his or her property forever, no matter who else ends up owning the property in the future.

According to Trainer, there are many trees in Port Orchard targeted as significant trees, including Douglas firs in Olalla Park, trees in Retsil and several old-growth western white pines.

Old-growth trees are at least 200 years old.

If unincorporated Kitsap County adopts Kitsap Trees’ Easement, it would join several large cities including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Vancouver — all of which have similar resolutions. Trainer said he worked with all four cities when drafting Kitsap Trees’ version.

Trainer explained any city in Kitsap County may also adopt the easement as its tree ordinance. That’s good news for Port Orchard, a city plagued by ongoing strife with developers and community members taking opposing sides.

Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel did not know of the Easement draft as of Thursday, but said she’s looking into presenting it to the City Council for consideration.

“(Cities) have to make ordinances work so they can protect trees,” Trainer said.

Trainer also pointed out that often, ordinances are written by city planners rather than experienced foresters.

“The other thing these developers need to know is these trees increase property value by 15 percent,” Trainer said. “I think the county needs to step up with the city to get the message out.”

John Allen is a Kitsap Trees volunteer and a landowner. He also considers himself a potential developer.

“There is a way to find a happy medium if all parties would come and work together,” Allen said. “There has to be dialogue between the (Department of Community Development), the city and he landowner.”

“It’s important,” Trainer agreed. “It takes five to six generations to replace a historic tree. A lot of light has been shed on the trees down here.”

He cites the Illahee Forest as a perfect example of how beneficial easements can be. For now, Kitsap Trees hopes to continue its mission to promote private enterprises and homeowners as valuable partners in the preservation and management of urban trees and forests.

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