Congressman Kilmer still on fence over wilderness act
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, right, talks with Port of Port Angeles Commissioner John Calhoun, center, as port Executive Director Jeff Robb waits his turn during an open house at Kilmer's Port Angeles office Tuesday.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer continues to seek a middle ground between increased logging and preserving land in Olympic National Forest, he said Tuesday.

The 6th District Democrat spoke with the Peninsula Daily News before an open house attended by about 40 people at his new Port Angeles district office at 332 E. Fifth St.

The office, the only one Kilmer has on the North Olympic Peninsula, is across from City Hall, where Kilmer's predecessor, Norm Dicks, a Democrat from Belfair, had his Peninsula headquarters before retiring last year.

Kilmer, who represents an area that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, is studying the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and has not taken a stand.

“I'm still doing a lot of listening,” he said.

Three-year effort

Based on a three-year effort by the Quilcene-based Wild Olympics Campaign, the legislation would designate as wilderness more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest, making it off-limits to logging, and would name 19 rivers and seven tributaries as wild and scenic.

The proposal was introduced in June 2012 by Dicks and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and died in Congress at the end of 2012.

Murray has vowed to reintroduce it this year.

“We've had a lot of discussions both in Clallam County and throughout the Peninsula, in Grays Harbor [County] and Jefferson County, talking to people on all sides of this issue to get a sense of what the proponents are trying to accomplish and what the concerns are among those who are more reticent about it,” Kilmer said.

“I've said for the last year that there is value in protecting environmentally sensitive areas and also recognizing the importance the timber industry plays and has continued to play,” he added.

Already in place is the Northwest Forest Plan, adopted in 1994, which places limitations on logging in Olympic National Forest and 18 other national forests to protect forest habitat within the range of the northern spotted owl while allowing for the production of “a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales and non-timber resources,” according to the plan's “Five Key Principles.”

“Part of the conversation I've had with the timber industry is, are there environmentally responsible ways to proceed that might increase the harvest?” Kilmer said.

“I'm still working on developing a strategy on that.”

Those attending the open house included Pat Johansen, chairwoman of the Clallam County Democrats and the party Central Committee; Port of Port Angeles Commissioner John Calhoun; port Executive Director Jeff Robb; and city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West.

Before the open house, which was from 9:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., Kilmer and his staff met with a group that included Robb and port Business Development Director Colleen McAleer to discuss potential funding for an initiative for advanced composite manufacturing in the region.

Participants

Meeting participants also included representatives of Peninsula College, the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe's economic development group, the county Economic Development Council and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories near Sequim.

“Congressman Kilmer has assured us he will support our initiative, and we are working on a framework of funding opportunities,” Robb said in a later interview.

At the outset of the open house, Kilmer, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, shook hands and chatted with a long line of well-wishers before briefly addressing the group in a district office that soon overflowed with constituents.

Composite area

During his opening remarks, he spoke of the earlier discussion on the composite manufacturing and referred to Angeles Composite Technologies Inc. of Port Angeles and its role in composite manufacturing.

“This is an area I'm going to engage,” he promised.

Kilmer is on the last leg of a two-week tour of the 6th District.

Later Tuesday, he was to travel Bremerton for a round-table meeting with federal workers at the Norm Dicks Government Center to discuss federal sequestration.

The meeting was to include House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland.

Kilmer's Port Angeles district office is open from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The phone number is 360-797-3623.

“Residents of the 6th District who have comments, questions or need assistance with a federal department or agency are encouraged to contact the office,” according to a prepared statement from Kilmer's Washington, D.C., office.

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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: April 02. 2013 6:03PM
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