Big chunks of the Olympic National Forest would get protection as wilderness, and 19 Olympic Peninsula streams would receive Wild and Scenic Rivers designation under a bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wants to protect “our most treasured places” on the Olympic Peninsula.
“I’ve always rejected the proposition that we must choose between economic growth and environmental protection,” Kilmer, a Port Angeles native, wrote Friday on his Facebook page.
The legislation would designate 126,554 acres of the 633,000-acre Olympic National Forest as wilderness areas. The national forest is doughnut-shaped and surrounds much of Olympic National Park.
The Murray-Kilmer bill would, for the first time, put salmon streams on the peninsula into the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers system.
The legislation is similar to a bill formerly sponsored by Murray and then-Rep. Norm Dicks.
Before signing on, however, Kilmer insisted on spending his first year in Congress listening to constituents across the Olympic Peninsula.  He added amendments to keep existing roads in place, enhance fire-fighting capability and assure protection for private landowners.
“This proposal is part of a practical, balanced economic development strategy to not only protect the natural beauty of our area, for generations to come, but to help attract businesses to our region and help them grow and invest in our future,” Kilmer said.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.: He chairs House Natural Resources Committee and has refused to move wilderness legislation sponsored by Washington colleagues.
Recreation visitors to the Olympic Peninsula will see with their own eyes one impact — or lack of impact — should the legislation be adopted.
Much of the shoreline along Lake Quinault is in Olympic National Park, but ridges above the lake are outside park boundaries.  The wilderness designations would mean that lake visitors do not lift their eyes unto the hills — and see clearcuts.
“Having Congressman Kilmer is absolutely essential:  These bills require local support,” said Graham Taylor, a Sierra Club staffer who has worked on the issue.
The legislation is officially entitled the Wild Olympic Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  It would be the first new designation since the Washington Wilderness Act of 1984.
“This legislation is a step in the right direction to protect our most treasured places for our kids and grandkids, and I look forward to working with Rep. Kilmer to pass this bill into law,” said Murray.
Don’t hold your breath.  The bill goes to the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
Hastings has almost never seen any piece of federal land that he doesn’t want to log, or mine, or drill, or turn over to state or private ownership.
Hastings has sat for three years on bipartisan legislation, championed by fellow Republican Rep. Dave Reichert and Murray, that would add the Pratt River in eastern King County to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
A Republican president, Gerald Ford, signed legislation adding Point of Arches to Olympic National Park.
Murray and Kilmer can point to one salient fact in promoting their new bill.  The protection of wildlands on the Olympic Peninsula began with a Republican president.
Theodore Roosevelt used his powers under the Antiquities Act, in 1908, to designate an Olympic National Monument, the forerunner to today’s national park.  He acted to protect elk from slaughter that are now known as Roosevelt Elk.
A second Republican president, Gerald Ford, signed the 1976 legislation that put famed Point of Arches, Shi Shi Beach and the shoreline of Lake Ozette into Olympic National Park.