The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was set to receive a hearing and be open to amendments on Wednesday, but the bill was pulled from the agenda.
The Full Committee Markup for the Natural Resources Committee was scheduled to hear a number of bills related to preservation of lands throughout the US, including the bill with local impacts.
The over 3 hour meeting featured contention for each bill that was eventually introduced.
Ranking Member Representative Rob Bishop spoke out at the start of the meeting regarding the slate of bills, setting a tone that continued through the meeting.
The agenda featured bills that would have protected or preserved areas throughout the US, with a back-and-forth discussion about the needs of providing additional rules for the regions.
First introduced in 2012 as the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, the proposed legislation has gone under a number of iterations to mixed local community reaction.
The legislation was reintroduced in 2014, 2015, and 2017, the current reiteration continues the goals first set out by Sen. Murray and Representative Norm Dicks.
Since the original measure, the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has been adjusted in several ways.
Currently, the bill would designate approximately 126,554 acres in the Olympic National Forest as wilderness and designate some rivers in the forest and Olympic National Park as wild and scenic.
The sponsors of the bill say that this designation would provide “myriad benefits to local community and beyond,” giving the area a “competitive edge” over other regions to attract tourism as well as companies and workers looking to be closer to the wilderness.
The bill states that the land designated as wilderness protects “ecological, geological, or other forms of scientific, scenic, or historical value”.
The designations are said to continue to provide access to some non-recreational activities, no roads would be closed, no public land would be subject to the designations, and that it would not create a major impact on the current regional logging industry as 99% of the forests cannot be commercially harvested already under federal law.
In the release they say that the act is designed through “extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water and salmon streams as well as enhance outdoor recreation”.
The Wild Olympics Coalition also released today over 100 new endorsements for the changes to bring the total endorsements regionally to more than 800.
This includes 24th Legislative District Representatives Steve Tharinger and Mike Chapman, the Quinault Indian Nation, Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson, Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff, Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, Elma Mayor Jim Sorensen, multiple local city councilmembers, and various local businesses and groups.
The Grays Harbor County Commissioners, Aberdeen City Council, and Cosmopolis City Council have all voted in opposition to the legislation since it was originally introduced.
Bill sponsors have said that the legislation would set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.
The Wild Olympics bill is said to be included in a future meeting and will be open for discussion within the committee.