Wild Olympics Campaign (WA)

posted July 21, 2010
by Thomas O'Keefe

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Wild Olympics Campaign Launches New Website

Broad Coalition Seeks Additional Community Input on Watershed Protection

Quilcene, WA – The Wild Olympics Campaign today launched a new website (www.wildolympics.org) to provide information and solicit additional community feedback on their draft proposal to protect key forest and river watersheds on the Olympic Peninsula.  The Campaign has been meeting with local stakeholders for the past year to build support and get feedback on their draft proposal for new wilderness, Wild and Scenic River and willing seller National Park additions for Peninsula watersheds.

“These forests and rivers provide local communities with clean, cool water, unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities, and sustain our outstanding Peninsula way of life,” said Connie Gallant, a Quilcene resident and Chair of the Wild Olympics Campaign.  “Our watersheds are vital to the health of Hood Canal and Puget Sound and are critical habitat for wildlife, steelhead and salmon.”

The Campaign, a group of conservation and recreation organizations including the Olympic Forest Coalition, Olympic Park Associates, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, and the North Olympic Group – Sierra Club, started with a simple idea: It is far less costly for our environment and our community to protect healthy watersheds now than restore damaged watersheds later.
The Campaign has found broad and diverse local support for protecting Peninsula watersheds. Supporters range from businesses such as Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, fishermen like Dave Bailey of the Greywolf Flyfishing Club in Clallam County, and elected officials such as Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval.

For the past year, the Campaign has conducted an exhaustive local stakeholder consultation process to build support, listen to concerns and get feedback on the draft proposal.  They have held over 25 workshops, presentations and listening tours with civic groups, church groups, and other local residents. The Campaign has had more than 200 meetings with different stakeholder groups in all four counties of the Peninsula plus Kitsap County. They have met with timber interests, local elected officials, local Tribes, conservation groups, hunters and anglers, mountain bikers, businesses, community leaders and other local stakeholders.

“We have received constructive community feedback on our draft proposal and have refined it repeatedly to address many issues and requests from various constituencies” said Bob Lynette, of the Sierra Club’s North Olympic Group.  “We continue to meet with different groups and work to resolve issues and refine our draft proposal to this day. The goal of the website is to continue and broaden that discussion.” Local stakeholders and the general public are encouraged to visit www.wildolympics.org  and get involved in the discussion by submitting comments on the latest draft of the proposal and signing the online petition. To date, the Campaign has collected more than 1,500 letters and postcards from Peninsula residents in support of protecting the wild Olympics.

Numerous changes have already been made to the Wild Olympics Campaign’s proposal as a result of stakeholder concerns. Some examples are;  the campaign is excluding key mountain bike and motorized trails on Olympic National Forest from the wilderness proposal so the use would be unaffected, only proposing Wild and Scenic River designation for contiguous river stretches on  state and federal land unless private land owners want the designation, excluding any pending timber sales on Olympic National Forest and  adopting a “willing seller” clause so that National Park boundaries will not change unless local landowners want to sell.

Taylor Shellfish strongly supports the plan noting it is vital to their business and local jobs.  “The two largest shellfish hatcheries that supply seed to the West Coast industry are located on Hood Canal,” said Bill Taylor of Shelton, Vice President of Taylor Shellfish, based along Hood Canal in Mason and Jefferson Counties.  “Well over 150 jobs are provided in Hood Canal alone by the shellfish farms and hatcheries, not including the indirect jobs such as processing, sales and shipping.  By protecting Olympic Peninsula forest and rivers, we ensure clean and safe water so that shellfish companies can continue to grow and further benefit the economy and ecology of Washington State.”

The current discussion draft of the Wild Olympics Campaign proposal would protect  more than 134,000 additional acres of wilderness for key upper watersheds on Olympic National Forest including: South Quinault Ridge, Jupiter Ridge, and Dirty Face Ridge. Wilderness designation would prohibit new logging or road building but would allow a wide range of backcountry recreation such as hunting and fishing.

Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval agreed.  “For my town, the nearly 20,000 acres of untouched, roadless forests in the Big Quilcene watershed proposed for wilderness provide natural filters for clean and safe drinking water to our residents.  Literally minutes away, they also provide protections for a diverse ecosystem and majestic playground, which encourages the world-class recreation opportunities that benefit our local economy.”

The Campaign also proposes long overdue Wild and Scenic River protections on federal and state lands for many of the Olympic Peninsula’s iconic free-flowing rivers including the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, South Fork Skokomish, Hamma Hamma and Dungeness.  The designation would prevent dams from ever being built on those stretches of rivers while still allowing fishing, swimming, paddling, rafting and other river-friendly recreational use to continue.
Anglers are enthusiastic about the idea. “As a local fisherman, I understand the importance of preserving healthy fish stocks on the Olympic Peninsula,” said Dave Bailey of Gardiner, President of Greywolf Fly Fishing Club and Vice President of Trout Unlimited’s  Rainshadow Chapter.  “What used to be the salmon capital of the world has become barely productive enough for any sport or commercial industry.  We must protect our rivers in every possible way, and the watersheds that feed them.”

In addition, the Campaign is advocating for willing seller Olympic National Park expansion for sensitive watersheds such as lands above Lake Crescent and around Lake Ozette. The willing-seller mechanism would provide the Park Service an opportunity to bid on commercial forest land if it was ever offered for sale in the future.
Tim McNulty, a local leader in the Campaign and the author of Olympic National Park: A Natural History, says that history shows the protections put forward in the draft proposal are the only truly enduring safeguards for these remaining wild places.  “The Wild Olympics Campaign offers the most durable, long-term protections possible for the Olympics Peninsula’s last unprotected wilderness, free-flowing rivers, and critical fish and wildlife habitats.”

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012