June 22nd, 2012 – 6:16am
(Port Angeles) – A bill introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House would create 126,000 acres of new wilderness in the Olympic National Forest.

Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks said Thursday it would protect several key forest areas and rivers while preserving local jobs and outdoor recreation access.

The two Democrats say the proposal will help protect sensitive areas on the Olympic Peninsula and continue progress to protect and restore Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

They say the Wild Olympics wilderness proposal is a compromise written after nearly three years of consultation with area residents, business owners, organizations and tribes.

It was based on a "Wild Olympics" group proposal that had included buying up timberlands from willing sellers that would add acerage to Olympic National Forest and Park. The property buying is not part of the proposed legislation.

It would designate 19 rivers and seven tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Murray and Dicks say the bill's conservation of critical watersheds would protect drinking water and safeguard fisheries.