By PAUL GOTTLIEB
Peninsula Daily News
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U.S. Sen. Patty Murray plans to reintroduce “Wild Olympics” legislation that would expand wilderness in Olympic National Forest by more than 126,000 acres and which would create a protective buffer around Olympic National Park.
“Sen. Murray has worked with local businesses and community organizations to craft legislation that preserves Washington state’s wild areas and rivers while protecting local jobs and recreation,” Murray spokesman Sean Coit said Monday in a statement.
“She looks forward to reintroducing the Wild Olympics bill this Congress and working with her colleagues and local stakeholders to pass this legislation.”
New 6th Congressional District Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, continues to hold off on taking a stand on the Wild Olympics proposal, which would ban logging in the protected areas.
Legislation died in 2012
Such legislation was introduced in the last session of Congress by Murray and Kilmer’s predecessor, Norm Dicks, but the bill died as the 2012 Congress adjourned.
Within Olympic National Forest’s 633,000 acres are parts of Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Mason counties, all of which are in the 6th District.
“As I’ve said all along, I want to hear from proponents and opponents so that I can understand where everyone is on this proposal,” Kilmer told the Peninsula Daily News.
“In recent weeks, I’ve met with environmental groups, forestry experts, folks who work in the timber industry, representatives of the agencies responsible for implementing the Wild Olympics proposal and local and tribal governments.
“I’ll continue to hold meetings and solicit input on the best way to support jobs and protect our natural resources.”
In a Dec. 14 interview with the Peninsula Daily News, Kilmer said he was striving for “a broader consensus for a path forward.”
In June, Murray, D-Bothell, introduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act of 2012 in the Senate.
Dicks submitted companion legislation in the House at the same time.
In November, Kilmer, who grew up in Port Angeles, won the seat held by Dicks.
Kilmer has called Dicks his mentor, and Dicks threw his support behind Kilmer last spring shortly after he announced for the position.
Under the plan, 19 rivers and seven tributaries inside and outside the protected area would have been designated “wild and scenic,” adding them to the more than 150 wild and scenic rivers in the United States.
The designated boundaries generally average one-quarter mile on either bank to protect river-related values, according www.rivers.gov, a website dedicated to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
There are 203 such rivers in the United States totaling 6,168 miles.
The legislation was based on a more expansive proposal put forward by the Quilcene-based Wild Olympics Campaign.
“Obviously, the Wild Olympics Campaign is thrilled with Sen. Murray’s announcement and grateful for her continued leadership in championing permanent protection of the Peninsula’s ancient forests, free-flowing rivers and stunning scenery for future generations,” the campaign’s chair, Connie Gallant, said Monday in an email.
“We also realize that Congressman Kilmer is being diligent in following up with both proponents and opponents of the Wild Olympics.”
The legislation has been opposed by the North Olympic Timber Action Committee, or
NOTAC, a forest-industry group that has proposed opening up about 128,000 acres of Olympic National Forest land in perpetuity, overriding the 80-year rule contained in the Northwest Forest Plan, in return for supporting the wilderness plan.
“We have hopes that Sen. Murray will sit down with us and address our NOTAC alternative and try to have a discussion about it,” NOTAC Executive Director Carol Johnson said.
“Our alternative was meant to elicit discussion, particularly from the politicians, and it really didn’t do.
“We still need and would like to sit down with Sen. Murray and her staff to discuss the alternative with them, which hasn’t been done.”
In the legislation proposed last year, wilderness areas included 768 acres of timber that could be logged by conventional methods, and 3,808 acres that could be logged only by helicopter or were scattered or more remote than those designated for helicopter logging, The Daily World newspaper of Aberdeen reported.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.