Forum to discuss Wild Olympics Campaign on West End

AMANDA PARK — A meeting at Lake Quinault School on Saturday will draw speakers from Forks and elsewhere on the West End to discuss the merits of a movement to create more wilderness, more protected areas near the watersheds of the North Olympic Peninsula and possibly more national park designations.

The forum will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Lake Quinault High School gymnasium, 6130 U.S. Highway 101.

The forum is organized by Working Lake Quinault and Working Wild Olympics.

Both groups oppose the idea of creating more wilderness areas — a proposal under development by a coalition of organizations called the Wild Olympics Campaign, said Keith Olson, president of Working Lake Quinault.

“We don’t need more open space, and this is just an attempt to grab more land,” Olson said.

Speakers

Speakers will include Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon, Forks City Attorney Rod Fleck, Aberdeen City Councilwoman Kathi DeCourcy Hoder, Wild Olympics Campaign spokesman Jon Owen, Lake Quinault School District Superintendent Rich DuBois, Working Wild Olympics President Dan Boeholt, Grays Harbor County Commissioner Bill Pickell and community members Harold Brunstad, Monte Dahlstrom and Dan Wood.

“We are expecting a pretty huge crowd from the Forks area,” Olson said, adding that he expects between 200 to 300 people.

“There will be a forum of people. Some of the politician-type people will be neutral. Jon Owen will be speaking for Wild Olympics, and then a few other people will be speaking against,” Olson said.

Each speaker will have five minutes to make a presentation.

An hourlong question-and-answer period will follow.

Members of environmental groups working on the Wild Olympics Campaign are evaluating the watersheds of the North Olympic Peninsula, hoping to earmark areas that, if willing sellers were available, could be designated as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, or part of Olympic National Park.

Olson said he believes legislation is in the process of being drafted, but Connie Gallant of Port Townsend, who chairs the Wild Olympics Campaign, said the idea is still under discussion and that no draft bill exists.

“We are continuing to work together with different communities to address issues and tailor-make the proposal for local recreation, access and other needs,” she said.

While Olson and his group said the park is already large enough, Gallant sees an opposite problem.

“Around the Peninsula, all of us are aware of many instances of private timber lands or open spaces being converted to development,” she said.

“We have all noticed how past logging and road building on our national forests have threatened critical salmon habitat and our favorite backcountry recreation destinations.

“Our ancient forest and river watersheds provide local communities like Port Townsend with clean drinking water.

“With the Wild Olympics, we have an opportunity to work together with different communities around the Peninsula to protect our healthy watersheds now so we don’t have to pay to restore damaged watersheds later.”

Coalition members

Coalition members in the Wild Olympic Campaign are Olympic Park Associates, Olympic Forest Coalition, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, Washington Wilderness Coalition, The Mountaineers, Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Pew Environment Group, Sierra Club, American Rivers and American Whitewater.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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