December 20, 2014 CONTACT: Roy Nott, President, L.D. Nott Company: 360-561-4584
Over the last 16 months, a powerful new economic voice has emerged calling for protecting Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers in Washington: major business leaders and CEO’s of some of our state’s largest employers. Recently over 50 Puget Sound region Industry heads threw their support behind several broadly supported measures to permanently protect Washington’s public lands, helping to get one introduced in congress and two enacted into law & signed by the President this week. The reason behind this surprising new trend is actually quite simple; major companies in Washington depend on our state’s stunning scenery, world-class outdoor recreation and high-quality of life as one of their key competitive advantages in recruiting & retaining talented workers and creating local jobs.
Recently dozens of Puget Sound area business leaders urged congressional leaders to pass legislation that would add 22,000 acres to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designate 50 miles of free flowing rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
On September 12, 2014, 45 local CEOs and executives of Washington-based companies sent a letter to the key House and Senate Committees and the Washington Congressional delegation in support of a handful of public lands bills pending in Congress, including both the Alpine Lakes and Illabot Creek legislation. The letter represented an impressive and powerful collection of executives from around the state including leadership from the Seattle and Kittitas County Chambers of Commerce, The Tri Cities Economic Development Council, the Washington Clean Technology Alliance, Alaska Air Group, Tully's Coffee and many more.
“We are writing in support of protecting our unique heritage of public lands in the Evergreen State.” The signatories wrote. “Recently, research has confirmed what business owners in Washington have known for some time, that quality of life issues, like access to wild lands and waters or historic destinations, is a key component to attracting top talent and corresponding economic growth.”
On July 11, 2013, nine CEOs from the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer urging them to introduce Wild Olympics legislation to protect wilderness and rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. The letter was signed by CEOs from Paladin Data Systems (Poulsbo), SAGE Fly Rods (Bainbridge Island), Green Mountain Technologies (Bainbridge Island) and Taylor Shellfish (Shelton) among others.
“Our people are our key asset, and even in the current difficult economic environment, many of our employees can find work wherever they wish.” The signatories wrote. ”But they choose to live and work here largely because of the high quality of living, outdoor recreation and spectacular views offered by our public lands legacy here in the Evergreen State.”
The CEOs point out that the area’s natural treasures, which provide world-class outdoor recreation, clean water and the area’s high quality of living “give us a competitive edge over other regions in attracting and retaining the talented people our companies require.” Wilderness and wild and scenic river protection “would help protect the thousands of local jobs that depend on our ability to compete for talent against other regions, and they would enhance our recruitment efforts to grow our businesses in the future.”
In urging enactment of the measures, the Business leaders point to the findings in a November 2012 report by the independent, non-partisan Headwaters Economics Institute “West Is Best: Protected Lands Promote Jobs and Higher Incomes -How Public Lands in the West Create a Competitive Economic Advantage.” The report found that protected public lands are key to attracting companies, entrepreneurs and workers and that national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other protected public lands in the Western US have enhanced the competitive advantages of high-tech and professional services companies – a major reason why the western economy has outperformed the rest of the U.S. economy in employment, population, and personal income over the last four decades.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Addition and Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers Protection Act was signed into law on December 19, 2014 and adds 22,000 acres to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designates 10 miles of the Pratt River and nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River as par tof the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The designations, championed in Congress by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA08) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA01), protect clean water, native trout and world-class outdoor recreational opportunities in the closest mountain valley to the greater Seattle metropolitan area.
Legislation to designate Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River was also signed into law on December 19. Introduced by Sen. Murray and Representatives DelBene and Rick Larsen (D-WA01), the designation adds 14.3 miles of the creek to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and protects its clean, cold waters and crucial spawning habitat for threatened wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Illabot Creek is a tributary to the existing Wild and Scenic Skagit River which supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle concentrations in the lower 48 states.
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, was originally introduced by Sen. Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks on June 21, 2012. On January 17, 2014, the bill was reintroduced by Sen. Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA06). The Wild Olympics legislation would permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of wilderness in the Olympic National Forest and designate 19 rivers and seven tributaries —totaling more than 460 miles – as Wild and Scenic. The legislation would protect the first new Wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly 30 years and mark the first-ever Wild and Scenic River designations on the Olympic Peninsula.