The Olympic Peninsula is a beautiful and special place, one that draws people here to work and raise their families. But with a growing population and its subsequent needs, we must ensure that we protect the remaining intact watersheds that are most important for a thriving Hood Canal. That’s why I am one of the many elected officials who has joined with business owners, sportsmen, conservationists and other community members in supporting new wilderness, wild and scenic river designation and willing-seller park designations for the Olympic Peninsula.

Restoring and protecting the wild places on the Olympic Peninsula will not only provide essential benefits to Puget Sound, but will also ensure clean water for our local municipalities and afford countless opportunities for fishing and recreation – a tremendous asset to our local economies.

As our communities prepare to address the paramount long-term quality-of-life issues and construct more livable, sustainable places that attract talented people and thriving businesses, the backdrop of pristine forests stand as an incredible resource for economic vitality.

In addition, pristine forests filter organic matter and pollutants, helping to clean our drinking water. The northeast corner of the Olympic National Forest, for example, protects the water sources for the Little Quilcene River and tributaries of the Big Quilcene River – from the snowmelt of Mount Townsend to our Port Townsend municipal water supply. Yet today, this important area remains unprotected.

Decades of development have put undue stress on our forests, and what little we have left is vanishing quickly. These scenic treasures are critical to help restore Puget Sound and provide resilient habitat strongholds for fish and wildlife.

For Port Townsend residents, it could mean that nearly 20,000 acres of untouched forests in the Big Quilcene watershed that naturally filter our drinking water would be forever protected as wilderness. The amazing views and hiking trails of Dirty Face Ridge, just an hour’s drive away, could be safeguarded, as well as the scenic Hamma Hamma River, prized by anglers for its chinook, coho and steelhead. And key parts of Olympic National Park could be expanded to better protect watersheds and preserve critical low-elevation salmon and wildlife habitats where private landowners are willing to allow the park service to purchase their land as legacy to the public.

It’s time to protect what we have while we restore what we’ve lost – for our families and for our future. We invite you to join the conversation at
Michelle Sandoval is mayor of Port Townsend.