Legislation to Protect Olympic Peninsula's Ancient Forests and Wild Rivers
By: Thomas O'Keefe
QUILCENE, Wash. (June 21, 2012) The Wild Olympics Campaign, of which American Whitewater is a member, today cheered the introduction of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (H.R. 5995 and S. 3329) by Congressman Norm Dicks and Senator Patty Murray to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries (a total of 464 river miles) as Wild and Scenic Rivers. If enacted, the legislation would designate 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.
“We are thrilled. This historic day has been a long time coming,” said Connie Gallant, chair of the Quilcene-based Wild Olympics Coalition. “This landmark legislation would permanently protect the Olympic Peninsula’s ancient forests, free-flowing rivers and stunning scenery for future generations. It would safeguard critical salmon habitat and sources of clean drinking water for our local communities. And it would protect our unmatched quality of life on the Peninsula. We are indebted to Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray for their due diligence, commitment, and just plain hard work in engaging our communities these last several years to draft their legislation.”
"This is exciting and long-awaited legislation for the Olympics' unprotected wild lands – places like lower Gray Wolf, Lena Lake, South Fork Skokomish and South Quinault Ridge – and visionary in its sweep,” said Tim McNulty, of Sequim, Wild Olympics Coalition member and author of Olympic National Park: A Natural History. “Conservationists have been working for Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River protections in the Olympics since the 70s. This bill is a historic step forward in the long story of Olympic conservation."
A bipartisan poll released last week by The Mellman Group (a Democratic firm) and Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) found overwhelming support for the Wild Olympics proposal among likely voters in Washington’s 6th Congressional District. Nearly two out of three (64 percent) likely voters support the Wild Olympics plan proposed by Rep. Dicks and Sen. Murray. A near majority (49 percent) not only supported the proposal but also supported it “strongly.” Twenty percent of the district voters polled said they were undecided. Only 15 percent are opposed.
The Wild Olympics is broadly supported by more than 185 Peninsula businesses, farms, faith leaders, local elected officials, hunting, fishing and recreation groups (http://www.wildolympics.org/supporters).
Support for the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012:
Bill Taylor, Vice President of Taylor Shellfish Farms, Shelton
“Congressman Dicks’ and Senator Murray’s Wild Olympics legislation will help protect over 150 shellfishing jobs in Hood Canal alone – and many more in related industries like processing, shipping and sales. It protects the rivers and streams vital to the health of our hatcheries and to the health and restoration of Puget Sound. Our oyster beds depend on the clean, cold, silt-free water that drains off Olympic National Forest into Hood Canal. Protecting these watersheds allows our industry to grow, expand and continue to benefit the economy and ecology of Washington State. We are grateful for their leadership.”
Mark and Desiree Dodson, owners, Westport Inn, Westport
“This important bill will permanently protect the same treasures that draw people to our region–our unique low elevation ancient rainforests, sparkling wild rivers and crystal–clear water, and abundant birds, wildlife and salmon runs. These priceless natural assets are the very foundation of Westport’s tourism and fishing industries - protecting them protects local jobs and ensures a bright economic future for all of us. Visitors from all over come to the Peninsula to fish, clam, surf, hike and otherwise enjoy our wild coast. They stay in motels like ours, eat in local restaurants, shop in area stores, or choose to make their homes here–keeping our community’s cash registers ringing.”
Fred Rakevich – Retired logger and fifty-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. Congressman Dicks’ and Senator Murray'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.”
Morgan Colonel – Owner, Olympic Raft and Kayak, Port Angeles
“As an outdoor recreation business owner and an avid outdoorsman, my livelihood and lifestyle depend on clean, free-flowing rivers. I managed a Jackson Hole river company during the designation of the Snake River as Wild & Scenic, and saw firsthand the benefits of safeguarding this vital waterway. Active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to Washington's economy, and supports 115,000 jobs. Businesses like mine depend on access to the high quality natural resources the Olympic Peninsula is known for. Protecting these resources is an investment in our region's economic future, and the smart thing to do.”
John Austin, Jefferson County Commissioner, Port Ludlow
“This legislation will permanently protect clean drinking water for local Peninsula communities. For example, one of the places proposed for Wilderness protection is in the Big Quilcene watershed, which filters the clean, cold drinking water for the city of Port Townsend. Protecting forests and rivers on federal lands upstream protects our investments in salmon habitat and water quality downstream. And it won’t cost taxpayers a dime to implement. We are grateful for Congressman Dicks’ and Senator Murray’s help in protecting Port Townsend’s clean water.”