Kitsap County wants you to donate downed trees.

According to an article in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal’s online edition, “contractors and land owners who take down large trees are encouraged to donate these trees to the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management (SSWM) Program for use in stream restoration projects.” This sounds like a nice, voluntary program for people who want to contribute to the restoration of streams, but it gets a little complicated.

Donated trees must be coniferous, must have the root wads attached (or most of the root mass attached to the tree), must have the bark intact (intact branches are also preferred, but not required), must be at least 20 feet in length and be about 10 inches or greater in diameter, and must be freshly cut or recently downed and have a solid rot-free core. 

The article goes on to say that, “Trees acceptable for donation must also have been taken down in accordance with applicable development regulations. Acceptance of any donation does not imply authorization of tree removal. Further, trees that are a part of timber harvest or danger-tree removal operations will not be accepted. The County reserves the right to reject any offered donation.”

So, let’s see if we’ve got this straight. After jumping through costly hoops with County bureaucrats trying to get a permit to clear some land to build a new home or commercial structure — wasting extraordinary amounts of time and money — contractors and land owners are asked to spend more time and money examining downed trees. They are then asked to contact more County bureaucrats and offer to donate a tree or two, then wait for days, weeks or months, for the bureaucrats to come out to the property and determine whether the offered tree qualifies as “large woody debris.”

What if it does? Is the contractor or land owner then expected to transport the freshly cut 20 foot (or longer) tree with root wad attached to the County’s chosen restoration site making sure that its bark remains intact? Sounds, well, expensive… but the bureaucrats tell us it will save them (meaning us, of course) money.

Prediction. Contractors and land owners will realize that this is a really bad (expensive)  idea and they will choose not to donate downed trees. County bureaucrats, sensing an absence of large woody debris to carry out their make-work projects, will ask County Commissioners to pass an ordinance requiring contractors and land owners to donate qualified debris (er, tree stumps). To enforce the ordinance, contractors and land owners will be required to schedule time for a County bureaucrat to witness the permitted downing of any tree so the contractors and land owners can be asked (forced) to haul it to any of the County’s chosen restoration sites.

Sadly, there’s more to this story. It’s very hard for a builder to function in this county. Here are just a few of the reasons why…

First, the County tightly regulates forestry activities. Take a look at the county’s forest practice application and note the consequences of cutting a tree without a permit.

Second, land clearing/burning is prohibited. See the county fire marshall’s website. Land clearing/burning is prohibited as of September 1, 2009 — call (800) 323-BURN for more information.

Third, outdoor burning is heavily restricted (banned in urban areas). See the county’s website for details.

Effective January 1, 2001, Kitsap County joined King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties in a total outdoor burn ban in urbanized areas of the county under the 1991 Clean Air Washington Act. Outdoor burning in these areas is restricted to small recreational, ceremonial and cooking fires. Washington State Outdoor Burning Regulations

Be sure to remember the county’s stormwater requirements.  Available on the county’s website for all to see.

Stormwater Regulations are effective February 16, 2010.  Development and re-development projects not vested to prior stormwater regulations are subject to the new regulations, developed in conformance with the requirements of the Western Washington NPDES Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permit.  For a quick overview of changes as they apply to residential building permit submittal, please check out this brochure, “Changes in Stormwater Regulations will affect your Construction Project”. http://www.kitsapgov.com/dcd/brochures/51.pdf

And we dare not forget the zoning requirement of 1 unit per 5 acres in rural areas — not exactly friendly to people who want to develop their land.

Then throw in Watershed Resource Management (here), the Critical Areas Ordinance (here), and don’t touch the Rural lands (here). So you see, the County is really doing the citizens a favor by allowing builders and property owners the privilege of disposing of select trees under very controlled conditions. Of course, if people don’t volunteer, they can always be forced to do whatever the bureaucrats want.

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