Thank you for writing about Congressman Dicks' and Senator Murray's draft conservation proposal for the Olympic Peninsula. As a hunter and fisherman, I am excited that this proposal would protect and expand access for hunting and fishing on the Peninsula.
Many of us are heading out to go hunting and fishing only to find new "No Public Entry" and "No Camping" signs where we used to hunt, fish and camp.
For perfectly good reasons, timber companies are closing gates, leasing their land to hunters who can pay thousands of dollars and blocking us from setting up hunting camps on their property.
Landowners have this right, and I support them. However, we must find alternatives for permanent public access for hunting and fishing.
Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray give us an alternative with National Preserves where we can hunt. We see how important hunting is in National Preserves such as Valles Caldera, Big Cypress and Mojave. I hope that elk hunting and jobs as outfitters in our local National Preserves become as significant as elk hunting in Valles Caldera, for example.
For those of us who cannot pay thousands of dollars for land to hunt, these preserves would offer the same opportunities for hunting that most of us enjoy when we hunt the game management units in the National Forest. If there are willing sellers for the land that would become National Preserves, this is great news for sportsmen.
Our preserves would be smaller than originally proposed. The 20,000 acres of land potentially available for National Preserves with the Dicks-Murray proposal is roughly half of what Wild Olympics had proposed. Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray deleted 17,000 acres from the Wild Olympics proposal, which, by way of comparison, is roughly the size of Aberdeen and Hoquiam combined. For example, DNR land on the Queets and the south fork of the Hoh would remain with DNR. However, their proposal still gives us potential National Preserves, so I support their pared-down proposal.
I also support the proposal from Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray because it will not close any roads. Some of the roads we used to drive on in the National Forest are washed out and some of these need to be repaired. The Forest Service is responsible for making decisions about these roads. Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray leave this matter to the Forest Service, and some locals have already shown that the Forest Service has acted on community input.
I applaud this local activism.
Access for 23 rivers is also protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers designation proposed by Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray. This allows for additional funding for new access and restoration projects. It protects motorized access to the rivers. Many of us have seen how Wild and Scenic designation is working to improve fishing and boating access on the Sauk and White Salmon Rivers in Washington and on the Deschutes in Oregon. One of the reasons Olympic Peninsula fishing guides formed www.SportsmenforWildOlympics.org is the success of Wild and Scenic for protecting the access and jobs of guides on rivers like the Deschutes which is a wildly popular river for fishing and guiding.
With public access to hunting and fishing protected and expanded by the National Preserves and Wild and Scenic Rivers, I hope my fellow hunters, fishermen, boaters and campers join me in supporting Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray and their draft proposal.
Jason Bausher is a resident of Aberdeen.