History of Kitsap Environmental Coalition

A year ago, during the first week of August in 2018, Hansville resident Randi Strong-Peterson  discovered that Pope Resources had a permit to aerially spray pesticides over 331 acres of recently clear cut forest owned by Pope in north Kitsap County. Randi posted a Facebook notice and Hansville resident Pam Keeley responded. The two met and decided to convene an emergency community meeting at Point No Point beach in north Hansville.

Strong-Peterson and Keeley immediately began researching forestry practices, Kitsap’s water supply and aquifers, the forestry practices application and appeals processes, state and local agencies involved with forestry, chemicals used in commercial pesticides, pesticide application techniques, and resources for community support.

One week later 40 local residents showed up at Point No Point to discuss the situation and how to move forward. The group collectively decided to fundraise and hire a lawyer to file an appeal to the Pollution Control Hearing Board. Plans to contact public officials and the media and to spread the word to citizens throughout the county were also launched. Picketing outside Pope’s corporate headquarters in Poulsbo, WA began on August 13th and a lawyer was also retained that week.

Public interest grew quickly through discussion in social media, articles and letters to the editor in local newspapers, and flyers distributed throughout the community by KEC members. After creating a Facebook group and website, Kitsap Environmental Coalition formed officially as a 501 (c) 3 organization in late September. Because of changing weather and membership growth, KEC meetings moved to Driftwood Key Clubhouse and then to the Village Green in nearby Kingston.

In addition to Pope Resources, letters, emails, and phone calls were made to officials: County Commissioner Robert Gelder, KPUD Commissioner Debra Lester, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, State Representatives Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen, State Senator Christine Rolfes, Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz, Governor Jay Inslee, and US Congressman Derek Kilmer. Outreach to specific agencies included Kitsap County Health Department, Washington State Department of Health, Department of Ecology, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Natural Resources. Response was tepid and representatives often referred us to another department or official.

In mid-September Pope held an open meeting at the Hansville Community Center to respond to community concerns. It was standing room only and representatives from several area media, including television, were present. Pope declared that they had no alternatives to using pesticides because “since Trump got elected you can’t get good help anymore.” They said that chemicals are safe when used correctly and that they’ve always done this.

One year later KEC counts over 800 members in its Facebook group (note: there are others who don’t participate in social media, but are active participants of KEC), the majority being from Kitsap and Jefferson counties (Jefferson also repeatedly being sprayed on the ground and in the air by Pope). The appeal to PCHB was dropped due to ballooning legal fees and the high probability of only minimal adjustments to Pope’s spray project. However, through community organization, education, and political pressure, KEC has made significant and real progress on limiting the use of pesticides in our county and protecting the water and environment.

Pam Keeley