Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act being reintroduced

Washington State – U.S. Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer have reintroduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The legislation would permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, 464 river miles, as “Wild and Scenic”.

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.

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”. They add 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.

“I’m proud today to stand with Representative Kilmer and more advocates, elected officials, community leaders, tribes, and businesses than ever before to introduce this important legislation that will protect our priceless wild spaces for generations to come,” said Senator Murray, who first introduced the legislation in 2012. “This proposal is the product of years of collaboration with local stakeholders and a shared commitment to preserving the precious natural features and resources of our prized Olympic Peninsula, and I look forward to bringing this new energy to our push to move this bill forward in Congress.”

“As someone who grew up in Port Angeles, I’ve always said that we don’t have to choose between economic growth and protecting our environment. We can and should do both,” said Representative Kilmer. “I’m proud to support this practical, balanced strategy, that will protect the wildest and most pristine places on the Peninsula while ensuring we can keep and grow jobs in our natural resource industries and other sectors. I’m grateful for the partnership of Senator Murray and community leaders from across the region, including small business owners, landowners, environmental advocates, and tribes, who have been dedicated to finding a strategy that works for folks across the entire region.”

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 Sorenson, multiple local city councilmembers, and various local businesses and groups.

List of Endorsements

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.

In the release it states that the legislation “has been carefully crafted through extensive community input to ensure the proposal will have no impact on existing timber jobs”.

It also states that it would permanently protect critical salmon habitat, sources of clean drinking water, and outdoor recreation opportunities “without closing any roads”.

As of Thursday morning, the legislation had not received a bill number.

 

Local Testimonials (Released by The Wild Olympics Campaign)

Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp: Our Tribe urges swift passage of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. As stated in the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s “Treaty Rights at Risk” report, “Salmon recovery is based on the crucial premise that we can protect what habitat remains while we restore previously degraded habitat conditions. Unfortunately significant investments in recovery may not be realized because the rate of habitat loss continues to outpace restoration. The resulting net decline in habitat demonstrates the federal government’s failure to protect the Tribes’ treaty-reserved rights.” In an era where we are witnessing unprecedented rollbacks of environmental safeguards on federal public lands, the Wild Olympics legislation would permanently protect some of the healthiest, intact salmon habitat left on the Peninsula.

Aberdeen Mayor, Erik Larsen: “Aberdeen has a history of working forests driving our local economy. As recreation and tourism continue to grow, our forests are finding new work. The new Wild Olympics legislation proposed by Rep. Kilmer and Sen. Murray has benefited from years of public input to balance the need to protect our natural resources with the need to protect the jobs they support. That is why I am proud to support the Wild Olympics legislation.”

Ashley Nichole Lewis, Bad Ash Fishing Guide Service (Tahola)(sic) & member, Sportsmen For Wild Olympics:“Conservation for me on the Olympic Peninsula means that the next generation and generations to come can come out here and experience the way that I experience it and the way my grandpa experienced it when he fished out here and that forever we always have this – what is wild and what is the Olympic Peninsula and our culture today.”

Fred Rakevich, Retired logger and forty-nine year veteran of the timber industry (Elma): “I am a retired logger who worked for fifty years in the timber industry. I have also fished and kayaked most of the major rivers in the Olympics. I was born and raised in Grays Harbor, but have traveled half way around the world. In all my travels, nothing impressed me more than the natural beauty of the Olympic Mountain Range and the clear running waters that begin their journey flowing toward the lands below. Timber is and always will be part of the Olympic Peninsula’s proud heritage. But our ancient forests and wild rivers are the natural legacy we will leave to our children and grandchildren.  Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer’s bill protects our natural heritage while respecting our timber heritage. I thank them for their thoughtful leadership, and future generations will thank them too.”

Casey Weigel, Owner & Head Guide of Waters West Guide Service (Montesano) and member, of Sportsmen for Wild Olympics: “Through hard work and our passion for our rivers and fishing, my wife and I have grown our small business enough to be able to help 3 other year-round and seasonal local guides support families, who love fishing just as much as we do. I support the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild & Scenic Rivers Act because our rivers and our salmon are our lifeblood and, without them, businesses like ours, the local jobs they support, and the dollars they bring into our local economy would dry up. The Wild Olympics proposal would simply make the current safeguards protecting our rivers on Olympic National Forest permanent. That’s all it does. It doesn’t change access or cost timber jobs. And if it did, I wouldn’t support it, because my family works in the timber industry. There are many challenges facing our rivers and salmon, with lots of debate and millions of dollars spent trying to help restore clean water and habitat downstream. But one basic, simple piece of the foundation we can put in place now that won’t cost any of us anything, is to permanently protect the healthy habitat on the federal lands upstream against any misguided attempts to develop them in the future. That’s why I am a proud supporter of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. For Our Future.”

State Representative Mike Chapman, 24th Legislative District(Port Angeles):“I have been very excited about the economic & recreational opportunities Wild Olympics will bring to the Olympic Peninsula. With REI and Patagonia’s support our corner of the world is now attracting visitors from all over. Wild Olympics is our future, for fresh air, clean water, pristine forests and future generations!”

Jasmine Dickhoff, Mayor, City of Hoquiam: “I’m from here, I grew up here, and I’m proud to call the Harbor my home. Harborites are hardy, self-reliant, and we often have a different point of view than other communities. We choose to live without all the amenities of big-city life and we do so because we love it here. Hundreds of local Peninsula businesses, sportsmen organizations & local elected officials like myself are backing Wild Olympics because it embraces that same pride – our shared love of the land and our desire to permanently protect the most special parts of our spectacular backyard. However, as a local elected official concerned about our economic future, I believe we need to be seizing new economic opportunities while taking great care not to hurt our current ones. That’s why it’s important to me that Representative Kilmer & Senator Murray have worked to ensure their final proposal won’t hurt local timber jobs. It’s also why I believe REI and Patagonia’s promotion of Wild Olympics is a validation of one of our important new economic advantages.

State Representative Steve Tharinger, 24th Legislative District (Sequim):  “It is easy to see and understand the ecological value of the Wild Olympics idea, conserving clean and free flowing rivers, but what is sometimes missed is the economic value that maintaining places like Wild Olympics brings by attracting people to the special outdoors of the Olympic region. I want to thank REI and Patagonia for engaging local community leaders like myself to help design the map, and for recognizing that encouraging people to get out and enjoy the special places in the Wild Olympics proposal brings economic benefits to the communities I represent.”

Mark and Desiree’ Dodson, Owners Westport Marina Cottages(Westport): “We’re one of the hundreds of local Peninsula businesses backing Wild Olympics because it would protect & promote the same priceless natural treasures that are cornerstones of our economy.  Our ancient temperate rainforests & wild rivers are iconic one-of-kind outdoor recreation destinations that draw visitors & new residents from around the world.”

Roy Nott, Aberdeen Businessman: “Growing up in Pacific County in the 50’s and early 60’s, my future career path was pretty clear. I knew I would work in the timber industry.  It was a no-brainer for me. The woods was where my childhood friends and I also chose to spend most of our free time. To advance your career often requires moves, and eventually my family and I were asked to move to the south and the northeast. It was all very interesting, but we missed our family and friends and the forests back home. So, in 1993, I returned with a much greater appreciation for the Olympic Peninsula’s remaining virgin forests. Not just as a draw for tourists but also a residential draw for forest-lovers like myself and my family. That is also why I chose to be an early advocate for new Wild Olympics legislation.

And my own experience as a CEO and Entrepreneur is that our area’s natural treasures, which provide world-class outdoor recreation, clean water and our area’s high quality of living are what give us a competitive edge over other regions in attracting and retaining the talented people our companies require.  Wilderness and wild and scenic river protection would help protect & grow the local jobs that depend on our ability to compete for talent against other regions, and they would enhance our recruitment efforts to grow our businesses in the future. And as a former Timber Industry Executive, I appreciate that Senator Murray and Rep Kilmer’s final proposal ensured it would not impact current timber jobs. This why the Wild Olympics legislation has now been endorsed by nearly 550 local Olympic Peninsula & Hood Canal Region Businesses, and why  I have been a stalwart supporter of the Wild Olympics from the start.”

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