Department of Natural Resources seeks state money for Seabeck forest

Nicole Hlavaty ran along the shoulder of Seabeck Highway Tuesday and though it may not be the safest option, she’s limited to what is in the area.

“The roads here are not very safe,” said Hlavaty, adding that when she is not on the road, she drives to Bremerton to workout at the YMCA. “I would totally use trails.”

For Seabeck hikers and runners like Hlavaty, nearby trails could be in the works if the Legislature approves a plan for the Department of Natural Resources to buy 103 acres of private forest land, which would cost $1.8 million, to expand a recreation area and habitat preserve that serves as home to bald eagle, cougar and black bear. The Legislature will meet in January.

“Part of the beauty of Seabeck is that it’s rural,” said Hlavaty. “That’s why I moved here.”

The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition has also requested $3.9 million from the state’s capital budget for acquiring an additional 145 acres of Stavis Natural Resource Conservation Area consisting of sections of Stavis Creek, said Kelly Heintz, natural areas manager with the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Stavis Natural Resource Conservation Area surrounding the Kitsap Forest Natural Area Preservation in Seabeck, south of Scenic Beach State Park, currently ranks number one in priority out of 17 urban wildlife sites across the state, according to the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office, the agency that administers the grant program. The sites are defined as providing wildlife habitat within five miles of a densely populated area. The conservation area is currently 3,800 acres.

The coalition announced last month that it will request $100 million from the state 2011 capital budget for projects statewide, including for the Seabeck forest. The department applied for the grant through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

“It is unfragmented natural forest,” Heintz said. “There’s not much left of that in the area.”

Open space and wildlife advocates say the land could be logged and developed if it isn’t preserved.

“These properties are highly threatened by development and are a crucial part of a larger project area that contains the highest quality occurrence of a rare forest community type and a variety of high quality wildlife habitats,” according to the coalition’s website. Stavis Creek runs through the forest and is a recovery area for Hood Canal summer chum, which is listed on the federal endangered species list.

“There are not a lot of other large open space conservation areas,” Heintz said.

She added that there currently are a few unmarked trails in the present conservation area but additional trails, trail heads and a parking lot are planned if the department is able to acquire the land.

“If the Legislature funds the (Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program) this coming year, (the project) will most certainly be funded,” said Jane Chavey, spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources, adding that because of its top rank, it would likely get priority.

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