U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell presents to former Sen. Daniel Evans a framed copy of the bill she sponsored that renamed the Olympic Wilderness as the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness during a ceremony at Hurricane Ridge on Friday. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell presents to former Sen. Daniel Evans a framed copy of the bill she sponsored that renamed the Olympic Wilderness as the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness during a ceremony at Hurricane Ridge on Friday. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

Ceremony marks designation of Daniel J. Evans Wilderness

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Daniel Evans hiked through Royal Basin last week like he did as a Boy Scout 77 years ago.

The former governor and U.S. senator, 91, returned to Olympic National Park for a excursion with family, this time through a wilderness that bears his name.

“The naming of the Olympic National Park wilderness in my honor is really a very special honor,” he said in the dedication for the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness.

“I’m grateful to all who worked hard to make this happen.”

The 877,000-acre former Olympic Wilderness, which covers 95 percent of Olympic National Park, was renamed to honor Evans for his contributions to wilderness preservation. The designation did not change the boundaries of the wilderness.

Evans was joined by more than 200 friends, family and former constituents in a park-sponsored ceremony at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

“What a glorious spot, and what a special gathering,” Evans said.

“It brings back memories of hundreds of hikes and several thousand miles of trails that I have enjoyed in the Olympic Mountains.”

The dedication included a blessing from the Makah Tribe and remarks from political leaders.

“We’re putting an iconic name next to an iconic place,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace.

A three-term Republican governor (1965 to 1977) and U.S. senator (1983 to 1989), Evans was known for working across the aisle and for his commitment to wilderness preservation, multiple speakers said.

In 1988, Evans authored the Washington Park Wilderness Act, which established more than 1.7 million acres of wilderness within Olympic, Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks.

“Many said ‘Why? They’re already national parks. What do you need wilderness protection for?’ ” Evans recalled.

“Well, national park designation doesn’t automatically create wilderness or protect wilderness.

“There’s a lot of development that goes on in many of our national parks,” Evans added.

“But these are very special national parks. All three are really wilderness parks, and they deserve wilderness protection.”

Retired U.S. Rep Norm Dicks, who represented the 6th Congressional District for 36 years, said the designation of the Olympic Wilderness was a “fitting tribute,” given Evans’ legacy and lifelong passion for the Olympic Mountains.

“Dan has been a singular force in protecting the lands, waters and wilderness” of the area, Dicks said.

The 6th District includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

Dicks’ successor, U.S. Rep Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said Evans was a champion for the creation of the North Cascades National Park, Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

“Yours, sir, is a legacy that has shaped our state and also shaped future generations of elected leaders who now carry the charge of environmental stewardship forward,” Kilmer told Evans.

Kilmer, a Port Angeles native who often picnicked with family at Hurricane Ridge, said the outdoors “bring families and friends and neighbors together.”

“They are part of who we are as Washingtonians,” Kilmer added.

Last year, Cantwell and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, introduced S. 3028 to redesignate the wilderness, while H.R. 5397 was sponsored by members of the Washington delegation in the House, including Kilmer.

“They proved the bipartisanship is not dead, yet,” Evans said.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law last Dec. 14.

“As mentioned, he [Evans] crossed the aisle,” Cantwell said.

“And when we think about results in Washington today, that’s what we need to think about: working together, making things happen.”

In addition to wilderness preservation, Evans founded The Evergreen State College and helped create the state’s community college system.

Evans was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Nancy, and extended family.

As “short-term renters of space on the planet,” Evans encouraged the audience to respect the hiker’s creed and “leave our campsite better than we found it.”

“If every person on Earth just followed that one thing, we would have an Earth far more blessed than it is today,” Evans said.

Evans said he relished his return to “splendid” Royal Basin with three sons, a daughter-in-law and six grandchildren.

He described his many hikes in the Olympic Mountains as “vivid reminders of an extraordinary part of my own life.”

“May this wilderness always be protected and always enjoyed by generations who follow us,” Evans said.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Former U.S. Sen. and Washington Gov. Daniel Evans and his wife, Nancy, are seen at Hurricane Ridge on Friday. The Olympic Wilderness was rededicated as the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness to honor Evans for his contributions to wilderness preservation. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

Former U.S. Sen. and Washington Gov. Daniel Evans and his wife, Nancy, are seen at Hurricane Ridge on Friday. The Olympic Wilderness was rededicated as the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness to honor Evans for his contributions to wilderness preservation. (Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News)

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