My family started oyster and shellfish farming here more than 100 years ago. Today I am proud to carry on this family business with my brother. The two of us hope it will thrive for another 100 years and beyond. A healthy Puget Sound is the linchpin to that dream, and we cannot have a healthy Puget Sound without protecting and restoring the watersheds that drain in to it.

Hood Canal is home to the two largest hatcheries that supply seed to the West Coast shellfish industry, including mine. These hatcheries directly support more than 150 local jobs and many more if you include those in related industries such as processing, sales and shipping. Protecting and restoring the Olympic Peninsula's watersheds ensures cold, clean, silt-free water will continue to flow into Puget Sound. Without such protections, our industry would not be able to grow, expand or continue to benefit the economy and ecology of Washington State. Healthy Peninsula watersheds play a critical role toward a prosperous shellfish industry and rural economy.

Recently, there had been great success in watershed restoration through partnerships like the Skokomish Watershed Action Team (SWAT). This public, private, and tribal collaboration has worked to decommission or convert to trails old, failing logging roads on Olympic National Forest that were washing hundreds of tons of silt and gravel downstream into the Skokomish River Valley, threatening farm lands, salmon habitat and oyster beds in Hood Canal. Thankfully, SWAT and the money invested in their efforts have made enormous progress in fixing this problem.

Now we need to safeguard these investments through permanent protection of the intact, healthy parts of the watershed upstream. That's why I have actively participated in the Wild Olympics Campaign's process to develop a plan to protect upper watersheds on Olympic National Forest and why I support the proposed wilderness and Wild and Scenic designations.

The announcement last month by Senator Murray and Congressman Dicks of "a path forward" to protect these special places represents the culmination of hundreds of meetings and discussions, including a series of public workshops that were held last month. Throughout this open and transparent community process Senator Murray and Congressman Dicks have paid careful attention to details. Their plan will not close any public access roads used for enjoying our public lands and they have carefully drawn the lines to make sure the proposal does not impact future timber harvests. Count me among those who strongly support their vision for protection of our remaining ancient forests and rivers as critical to restoring and maintaining the health of Puget Sound.

I was lucky to grow up exploring and enjoying the wild lands of the Olympic Peninsula. I believe the wilderness and wild and scenic river designations that are part of the draft congressional proposal are crucial toward ensuring both the health of our watersheds and the protection of our quality recreational opportunities. Whether for our livelihoods or our passions such as hiking, hunting or fishing, the Peninsula's natural treasures are an enduring resource. Working to ensure future generations are guaranteed the same experiences that I had in my youth is a no-brainer.

I applaud Congressman Dicks and Senator Murray for their leadership and action on this issue. Hundreds of jobs and the future of our shellfish industry depend on it.

Bill Taylor is vice president of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, WA.