Legislation that would protect nearly 200 square miles of wilderness on the Olympic Peninsula has been revived in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, gained the support of Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, to reintroduce the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act on Friday.

The legislation — introduced simultaneously in the Senate and House of Representatives — would designate more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and label portions of 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers as “wild and scenic.”

The wilderness designation would permanently protect old growth and ancient forest habitat on all sides of Olympic National Park. The largest sections are on the park’s east and south sides.

The river designations would raise the status of certain rivers as critical for water quality and salmon habitat but would not restrict private property rights.

“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 Representative Kilmer to pass this bill into law,” Murray said in a statement.

Wild Olympics builds off similar legislation introduced by Murray and former Rep. Norm Dicks in 2012. Kilmer maintained a neutral position on the legislation after he replaced Dicks last year.

Changes to the new legislation include language making it clear that wilderness designation will not affect property use outside wilderness boundaries. New wording stresses that federal agencies will be permitted to take action against fire, insect damage and tree disease within wilderness areas.

The Olympic Peninsula lies entirely within Kilmer’s 6th Congressional District, making his support key to the bill’s success, say members of the Wild Olympics Campaign. The nonprofit group had focused its efforts in recent months on Kilmer, sending him a 6,500-signature petition and hundreds of endorsements from businesses and outdoor recreation organizations.

The bill had been opposed by timber companies, the Olympic Peninsula cities of Aberdeen and Cosmopolis, and the Grays Harbor County commission.

In December, Kilmer brought timber and conservation interests together under the Olympic Peninsula Collaborative. The group’s aim is to increase national forest timber harvests in areas where tree thinning might boost habitat diversity.

With the collaboration in place, Kilmer felt more comfortable supporting Wild Olympics legislation.

“As someone who grew up in Port Angeles and saw firsthand the economic impact of the decline of the timber industry, I’ve always said that economic growth and environmental protection is not an either-or choice; we’ve got to do both,” Kilmer said.

Join a discussion about the outdoors at the Trails & Tides blog, http://pugetsoundblogs.com/trails-and-tides.