A plan to protect rivers, forests and ridges above three of the Olympic Peninsula's signature lakes was introduced in Congress on Thursday by Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

The "Wild Olympics" proposal has been vetted through public meetings in towns on all sides of the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.  But it has still drawn cries of "Land Grab" in old logging towns along U.S. 101 between Hoquiam and Lake Quinault.

It is designed to protect "amazing natural resources" and "crown jewels of our state," Murray, a member of the Senate's Democratic leadership, said as she introduced the bill.

In the Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives, however, the legislation needs to go through the House Natural Resources Committee, which chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has turned into an amen corner for the oil, coal and mining industries.

Dicks, senior member of Washington's congressional delegation, met earlier this week with Hastings seeking to get a hearing on the bill.  No decision has come from the session.

Still, the House Natural Resources Committee has stiffed a bill by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., to create a National Conservation Area on federally owned lands in the San Juan Islands.  The proposal has backing from San Juan County commissioners and local business.

The "Wild Olympics" plan would create 126,000 acres of new wilderness in the Olympic National Forest, which surrounds the national park like a doughnut.  It would protect 19 rivers and seven tributaries under the Wild and Scenic River Act.

The wilderness would protect ridges above Lake Quinault and Lake Crescent, major visitor magnets just inside the borders of Olympic National Park, and the Lake Cushman reservoir that provides access to the southeast corner of the park.

"The feedback we have received from everyday citizens has played a vital role in the development of this legislation," Dicks said.

The plan, according to its authors, "preserves and enhances existing recreation access" in the Olympic National Forest.  But it makes no provision for repair of the washed-out Dosewallips River Road.  The road provided access to the Honeymoon Meadows-Anderson Pass trail, which leads to a fabled part of the Olympic National Park's backcountry.

In a curious contradiction, while touting the recreational benefits of "Wild Olympics," old-line conservation groups have fought against plans to rebuild and relocate the Dosewallips Road.

Rural opposition to Olympic preservation plans is nothing new.

Chambers of commerce and timber companies resisted creation of Olympic National Park by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  But Port Angeles schoolchildren greeted FDR on a visit with banners backing a park.

Up until the 1960′s, timber interests and local chambers of commerce advanced schemes to remove rainforests of the Bogachiel and Calawah Rivers from the park so they could be logged.  Opposition flared again in the 1970′s when Sen. Henry Jackson and Rep. Don Bonker worked to add Lake Ozette and Shi-Shi Beach to the park.

The 1984 Washington Wilderness Act created five small national forest wilderness areas along the national park's south and east boundaries.

The Dicks-Murray legislation is House Resolution 5995 and Senate Bill 3329.