by Connie Gallant
I have been giving a lot of thought to the Navy’s proposal to engage in aerial maneuvers over the western part of our Olympic Peninsula, taking into account the reasons laid out in the Environmental Assessment (EA).
Forgetting for a moment the historical values of our national parks and forest, let’s think about what these places truly mean to us, as residents of the Peninsula, and as citizens of the U.S.A.
For well over a hundred years, the primary economy that put food on many families’ tables was timber. That has changed in the last few decades for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of the sustainability factor. We have been slowly switching our economic focus to the recreation/tourism industry because the magnificence of our mountains, rivers and forests is an incredible attraction to the general population. This industry continues to thrive as more local entrepreneurs open either brick-and-mortar shops or online businesses, depending on their choice of trade.
The beauty of our Peninsula has also attracted many other businesses to move here and offer opportunities to our residents who would otherwise have to travel off the Peninsula for a job. This has been a steady economic climb for us, and one that we welcome.
The primary reason why hundreds of thousands of visitors step on our soil, wade and play in our rivers, and bask in the splendor of our majestic mountains and forests, is because of the solitude and silence experienced; the opportunity to truly feel the power of Nature; and the privilege of watching wildlife in their natural elements.
It is, therefore, irresponsible for the U.S. Navy, or any other section of our military, not to consider the impact to the economic base we have all endeavored so hard to build up over the years.
Over many decades, there have also been many people who have fought for the protection of the park and wilderness areas—precisely so that all of us would have such places to enjoy today. This is serving us well, particularly from an ecosystem and economic point of view.
Let’s face the facts: the U.S. Navy simply does not want to inconvenience itself and clearly does not care for the needs of our residents—forget the visitors’ needs. Their planned maneuvers will not only destroy our Peninsula’s western economy as we know it today, but it will also destroy the habitat of our forest. If you have never experienced the deafening roar of a military jet flying at low altitude over your head, then you have no idea of the type of damages inflicted on humans, wildlife, and the forest’s fauna and flora we have appreciated for so long.
I am urging Congressman Derek Kilmer and Senators Murray and Cantwell, to ask the U.S. Navy to step away from such a proposal. The Olympic National Park and the Olympic National Forest belong to all of the residents of our Peninsula and of the United States. It is time that our voices be heard above the roar of the jets. It is time we protect our local economy.