Two members of Washington's congressional delegation offered compromise legislation Thursday to protect water, fish habitat and wilderness on the North Olympic Peninsula nearly two months after the proposal's outlines were presented at a forestry conference in Port Angeles.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, introduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act of 2012 on Thursday and hope to get a hearing on the legislation before the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by 4th District U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, whose district includes the Tri-Cities, said Dicks' spokesman George Behan.
A spokeswoman from Hastings' office did not return calls for comment Thursday on the chances of that happening.
"It's hard to be optimistic on wilderness proposals because they typically take a long time to percolate through," Behan said.
The legislation is based on a more controversial proposal by Quilcene-based Wild Olympics that included a willing-buyer, willing-seller provision involving Olympic National Park that is not part of the Dicks-Murray plan, Behan said.
Wild Olympics organizer Connie Gallant has said her group supports the Dicks-Murray plan.
Dicks called HR 5995 "a consensus proposal" in a press release.
"This legislation will protect sources of clean drinking water, preserve critical salmon and steelhead habitat, and protect the area economy," Dicks said.
"The feedback we have received from everyday citizens has played a vital role in the development of this legislation," he added.
"The result has been a consensus proposal that will help protect these sensitive areas on the Olympic Peninsula and continue our progress to protect and restore Puget Sound and Hood Canal for future generations."
Dicks' aide Sara Crumb presented outlines of the Dicks-Murray legislation May 3 in Port Angeles at the 2012 annual meeting of the Washington State Society of American Foresters highlighting the elimination of the willing-buyer, willing-seller provision objected to by the timber industry.
The provision would have allowed the park to purchase up to 20,000 acres of privately owned land outside the park if landowners were willing to sell it.
The revised proposal would designate 126,554 acres as new wilderness in Olympic National Forest, which would make them unharvestable, and would designate 19 rivers and seven tributaries as wild and scenic.
An additional 5,346 acres potentially would become wilderness if the U.S. Forest Service completes restoration under current management plans.
Land that would be preserved includes 93,959 acres of old-growth trees, Behan said.
Other changes include the addition of 7,400 acres of old-growth and trees more than 80 years old that would be designated wilderness and the removal of 11,300 acres of timber base, including second-growth plantations, according to a fact sheet from Dicks' office.
All forest system roads also were removed from the proposed wilderness area.
"It was changed in several ways before it finally got to what we call the final version that was introduced [Thursday]," Behan said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: June 21. 2012 5:48PM