QUILCENE, Wash. (July 22, 2020) –The Wild Olympics Coalition cheered a major bi-partisan vote in Congress yesterday that helped advance important public lands and rivers legislation forward, including the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act sponsored by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), which passed with a number of other public land bills as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The Wild Olympics legislation would permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries – a total of 464 river miles – as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests and clean water and enhance outdoor recreation, the legislation would designate the first new wilderness in the Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.
The bipartisan vote in favor of the legislation included strong support from Washington Reps Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith who supported the amendment to the NDAA. The Wild Olympics legislation was passed by the House earlier this February. Given the few legislative days left in this legislative session, the NDAA offers an opportunity to advance the bill in both Houses of congress. A similar legislative strategy was used in 2014 by Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Reichert and DelBene to attach legislation to expand Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Alpine Lakes and Ilabott Creek, the last major wilderness & wild and scenic bills for WA, which were passed in the 2014 NDAA.
“As someone who grew up on the Olympic Peninsula, I learned first-hand that economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” said Representative Kilmer. “Adding this practical, balanced strategy to today’s bill will help us protect some of the most environmentally sensitive places on the Peninsula. It will also ensure we can keep and grow jobs in our natural resource industries and other sectors. I am grateful for the years-long collaboration to create a proposal that works for folks across the community – including Tribes, sportsmen, conservation groups, timber communities, business leaders, shellfish growers, and everyone in-between.”
Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer spent years gathering extensive community input on the Olympic Peninsula to craft the carefully balanced legislation. It would permanently preserve ancient and mature forests, critical salmon habitat, and sources of clean drinking water for local communities, while also protecting and expanding world-class outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking, camping, boating, hunting, and fishing. No roads would be closed, and trailhead access would not be affected.
Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer worked extensively with local and regional timber interests to remove any currently viable timber base from the proposal to ensure the legislation would have no impact on existing timber jobs, as confirmed in a 2012 Timber Impact Study by the respected independent Forester Derek Churchill.
Aberdeen Forest Products Consultant and Former Timber CEO Roy Nott said in his July 10th testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, “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 new companies require. Wilderness and wild and scenic river protections would help protect and grow the local jobs that depend on our ability to compete for talent against other regions, and they would enhance our recruitment efforts as we work to grow new businesses in the future. And as a former Timber Industry Executive, I appreciate that Senator Murray and Rep Kilmer’s final compromise proposal was scaled-back to ensure it would not impact current timber jobs.”
The House passage comes on a wave of support from over 100 new endorsements rallying behind the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. The new additions bring the total number of local Olympic Peninsula & Hood Canal region endorsements to more than 800 endorsers, including the Quinault, Quileute, Elwha and Jamestown s’Klallam Tribes; over 30 local sportsmen organizations and fishing guides; the mayors of Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Ocean Shores and Elma; businesses and CEOs; farms and faith leaders; conservation and outdoor recreation groups; and many others. Additionally, more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support.
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman, Frances Charles: “The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (“Lower Elwha”) strongly supports the proposed Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and appreciates Sen. Murray’s and Rep. Kilmer’s sponsorship of this important legislation. We believe that it represents a fair compromise between potentially competing interests of preservation, economic use, and recreation. This legislation creates 126,600 acres of new wilderness and nineteen new wild and scenic rivers designations in the Olympic National Forest, the Olympic National Park and Washington State Department of Natural Resource-managed land. For Lower Elwha, the most important aspect of these new designations is the increased protection for salmon habitat. And we appreciate that it expressly acknowledges the fundamental interests and expertise of all treaty tribes in the restoration of fish habitat. This is an important complement to our ongoing successes, along with our federal and State partners, in restoring Elwha River fisheries in the aftermath of dam removal.”
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.
Quileute Tribal Council Chairman Douglas Woodruff Jr. “The Quileute Tribe supports passage of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It represents a well-crafted compromise that provides critical protections for fish and wild life habitat and water quality, while also respecting the treaty rights and management prerogatives of the Quileute Tribe. Protecting the best remaining habitat is imperative as tribal, state and federal governments and citizens throughout the Olympic region commit millions of dollars and incalculable volunteer hours to restoration activities in the face of declining salmon populations, fishing closures, threats to Orcas, and the impacts of climate change. The current version of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is a significant and vital step forward to “protect the best,” and the Quileute Tribe urges swift passage of this legislation.”
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Chairman Ron Allen: “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. It is our heritage and cultural principles to protect the lands and waters Nature provides, as well as the natural resources she sustains. Therefore, we do continue to support and urge swift passage of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.”
Aberdeen Forest Products Consultant & Former Timber CEO Roy Nott: “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 new companies require. Wilderness and wild and scenic river protections would help protect and grow the local jobs that depend on our ability to compete for talent against other regions, and they would enhance our recruitment efforts as we work to grow new businesses in the future. And as a former Timber Industry Executive, I appreciate that Senator Murray and Rep Kilmer’s final compromise proposal was scaled-back to ensure it would not impact current timber jobs.”
Dave Bailey, Past President of the Grey Wolf Fly Fishing Club in Sequim, WA & co-founder of Sportsmen for Wild Olympics: “People think that because our salmon streams on Olympic National Forest appear as they’ve always been, that they are safe. Unfortunately, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. There are determined threats underway by Congress and the Administration to roll back current safeguards and open these sensitive spawning streams to small hydropower development, industrial clear-cutting and more road building once more. That’s bad for fish, game, and sportsmen. This legislation is critical to preserve what we have.”
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.”
Ashley Nichole Lewis, Bad Ash Fishing Guide Service (Tahola) and 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.”
Bill Taylor, President of Taylor Shellfish Farms (Shelton): “Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer’s Wild Olympics legislation will help protect our state’s shellfish industry, including hundreds of 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.”
James Thomas, President & CEO Thermedia Corp/MasQs (Shelton): “The Wild Olympics legislation would help protect the outstanding way of life that is an important reason people choose to live, work and play here in Mason County with the stunning backdrop of the Olympic Mountains in our backyard. The ancient forests, wild rivers and scenic beauty of the Olympics are the foundation of our high “Quality of Life” that attracts visitors, entrepreneurs, new residents and investment in our communities, strengthening our local economy. In fact, these spectacular public lands were the final determinant when I chose the Olympic Peninsula as the new home for my medical device manufacturing company. Ten years later my heart still sings when I round a corner or top a hill and the Olympics come into view. I applaud Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer for working to protect the Peninsula’s economic future.”
Fred Rakevich, Retired logger and 49- 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.”
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!”
Sarah Muszynski, Owner, Blue Horizons Paddlesports (Lake Cushman): “As an outdoor recreation business owner and an avid outdoorsman, my livelihood and lifestyle depend on clean, free-flowing rivers. Visitors to Olympic National Park and businesses like mine annually contribute $220 million in local economic benefits and support 2,708 jobs. This economic benefit depends on access to the high quality natural resources the Olympic Peninsula is known for and protection of those resources. Visitors from around the world come to experience the place we call home. Protecting these resources is an investment in our region’s economic future, and the smart thing to do.”
Michelle Sandoval, Port Townsend Mayor (Port Townsend): “This legislation will help 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. We are grateful for Representative Kilmer’s and Senator Murray’s help in protecting Port Townsend’s clean water.”
Harriet Reyenga, Independent realtor for Windermere Real Estate (Port Angeles): “The Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild & Scenic Rivers Act will protect and promote the same spectacular public lands and high quality of life that are helping to drive growth and create local jobs in real estate, construction and many other sectors of our economy today. Our ancient forests, salmon, rivers and amazing landscapes are the north Olympic Peninsula’s competitive economic advantage over other regions. We should do all we can to protect and promote these natural treasures. The Wild Olympics legislation will do both.”
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.”
Douglas Scott, Owner of Exotic Hikes and The Outdoor Society (Hood Canal): “Outside my door, the river, forests and mountains of the Olympic Peninsula beckon me to hike and climb. In the Northwest corner of the contiguous United States, far from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, our glacial-fed rivers, full of salmon and surrounded by majestic eagles constantly inspire millions of locals and visitors to the region. Each year, over four million outdoor recreation enthusiasts head to the region, hoping to find a slice of natural beauty in pristine forests and impossibly gorgeous river valleys. As an author, tour guide and advocate for the Olympic Peninsula, I have witnessed the importance of nature and outdoor recreation in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to the support outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life, passing the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act will help ensure that even more of the stunning scenery will be protected and accessible for all. I am proud to Support the Wild Olympics. Come visit and fall in love with the beauty of rainforests, wild rivers and breathtaking adventures and you will too.”
Connie Gallant, Chair, Wild Olympics Campaign