Rep.-elect Kilmer won't support Wild Olympics bill as it is now

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — There's more work to do on Wild Olympics legislation before Derek Kilmer will support it after the new 6th District congressman is sworn in Jan. 3.

Both House Bill 5995 and Senate Bill 3329, also known as Wild Olympics legislation, would ban logging on more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest by designating the land as wilderness.

It also would designate 19 rivers and seven tributaries as wild and scenic.

The legislation is not expected to pass in the current lame-duck session before Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and other House members are sworn in when the 113th Congress convenes in early January.

In an interview this week, Kilmer refused to commit his support for the legislation as it stands.

“My interest is in speaking with people throughout the district and trying to build a broader consensus for a path forward,” he said.

The legislation has improved from its initial version but still has drawbacks, said Kilmer, a Port Angeles native who lives in Gig Harbor and comes to Capitol Hill after stints in the state Legislature.

“I also continue to believe that we need to see an increase in harvest levels in our federal forests,” Kilmer said, aligning himself with the North Olympic Peninsula Timber Action Committee and other logging interests.

“That involves a broader stakeholder conversation, and that's a conversation I intend to have.”

Asked if Wild Olympics legislation will be a top priority, Kilmer said he intends to focus on what he ran on: small businesses, creating jobs and “moving the economy forward,” he said.

“That will be my initial priority,” he said.

In a letter Monday to Gov. Chris Gregoire, Kilmer, 38, resigned his 26th District state Senate seat representing parts of Pierce and Kitsap counties.

He also resigned Monday as vice president of the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County.

Wild Olympics was introduced June 21 in stand-alone bills in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and in the House by Rep. Norm Dicks, the Belfair Democrat who is stepping down after having held the 6th District seat since 1977.

The legislation is expected to die at the end of this congressional session, said Crystal Feldman, a spokeswoman for the House Committee on Natural Resources, where the bill has been mired for six months.

Congress is expected to be in session between Christmas and New Year's Day, she said.

Kilmer and other new members of the House will be sworn in Jan. 3.

“Legislation will have to be reintroduced and go through the same process it did with this Congress,” Feldman said.

Murray spokeswoman Meghan Roh said Murray plans to reintroduce the legislation in the Senate next year.

Meanwhile, Kilmer said he will not have a storefront presence in Port Angeles — as does Dicks — but will have an office somewhere in the city.

Kilmer said he intends to “have a presence” in Port Angeles, perhaps an office within an office building, but will not lease a storefront because of budget constraints, including an expected 6 percent cut in congressional office budgets.

“Port Angeles is my hometown, and I want to make sure we will be accessible to constituents throughout Clallam County,” Kilmer said.

“We want to be thoughtful on how we approach staffing and leases and things like that to ensure we are being financially responsible.”

Kilmer bested Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma on Nov. 6 with 59 percent to Driscoll's 41 percent.

The 6th District's 400,000 voters live in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Mason and Kitsap counties and part of Tacoma in Pierce County

Kilmer met with about three dozen constituents Monday night at the Cotton Building in Port Townsend.

He will host another meet-and-greet from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at the Clallam County Democrats' office in the Lee Hotel building at 124-A W. First St. in Port Angeles.

For the past few weeks, Kilmer has been going through congressional orientation in Washington, D.C.

He said he has expressed an interest in serving on house committees on small business, natural resources, armed services and transportation and infrastructure.

As an incoming freshman, he said he would not expect to be named to the House Appropriations Committee and, specifically, the committee's Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.

Dicks, who chairs the subcommittee and is its ranking member, has been on the panel for 36 years.

For more than a decade, Dicks has overseen the funding and demolition of the Elwha River dams, part of a $325 million project under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department via Olympic National Park.

The Olympian reported this week that Dicks' staff has moved out of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., and that equipment will be moved out of Dicks' district offices in Port Angeles, Tacoma and Bremerton by the end the month, when the leases expire.

A recent NBC News report said Dicks was on the short list of nominees to succeed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar if Salazar steps down, but a Dicks spokesman said the departing congressman is not interested in the appointment.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 13. 2012 8:09PM
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