U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined State Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend), salmon and steelhead guide Ashley Nichole Lewis, President of Taylor Shellfish Company Bill Taylor and conservationist Tim McNulty for a hike in Olympic National Forest to discuss her Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined State Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend), salmon and steelhead guide Ashley Nichole Lewis, President of Taylor Shellfish Company Bill Taylor and conservationist Tim McNulty for a hike in Olympic National Forest to discuss her Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Wild Olympics legislation on upswing

Bill passes Senate hurdle but needs House support

SEQUIM — Sen. Patty Murray has high hopes that Wild Olympics legislation will be approved by the U.S. Senate after a decade of trying and failing at congressional passage.

First introduced in 2012 by Murray and 6th District U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks — and reintroduced in every Congress by Murray and then by Dicks’ successor, Derek Kilmer — the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act received its first Senate hearing earlier this summer and is awaiting full Senate consideration.

That was a breakthrough, Murray said last week after she hiked 2 miles along a section of the Upper Dungeness Trail that would be preserved by S. 455, which in February passed the House as H.R. 999 with Kilmer’s sponsorship.

“We are closer than we’ve ever been,” Murray said Aug. 31 in an interview after the sojourn.

Her party included 24th District state Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, and conservationist, author and conservationist Tim McNulty, vice president of Olympic Park Advocates.

The legislation would preserve 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness, or 20 percent of the forest, barring logging on the acreage under a federal mandate. The bill designates specified segments of 19 rivers and their tributaries as wild, scenic or recreational, with protective buffer zones along their borders.

Along with the Dungeness, they would include portions of the Elwha, Hoh, Bogachiel, Big Quilcene, Dosewallips, Sol Duc, Lyre, Queets, South Fork Calawah, Duckabush, Hamma Hamma, South Fork Skokomish, Middle Fork Satsop, West Fork Satsop, East Fork Humptulips, West Fork Humptulips, Quinault and Wynoochee rivers.

For the first time in 10 years, the bill, approved before in the House, made it out of committee in the Senate this summer, passing muster before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.

“All that’s left now is for the committee to mark up the bill and send it to the Senate floor for a full vote,” Murray said.

Murray, a five-term senator up for re-election in 2022, predicted the legislation would be packaged with other bills, adding it will need 60 votes for a floor vote.

She said she expects Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to not block the bill if it gets bipartisan support.

McConnell’s office did not return an email request for comment on the legislation.

The mile-long section Murray walked last week was through old-growth Douglas fir along the Dungeness River.

McNulty called it “a really stunning example” of the protection Wild Olympics offers, located as it is near the Buckhorn Wilderness, Olympic National Forest’s largest wilderness-designated area, through which the Dungeness flows.

The section of trail that would be preserved was left out of Buckhorn Wilderness when Congress gave it the designation in 1984.

“The rationale back then was that it was administratively protected,” he said. “We know that, with different administrations, that could change.”

Passage of Wild Olympics “would give it permanent protection,” he said.

McNulty said the Wild Olympics Campaign (wildolympics.org) has addressed critics who, since 2012, have been successful in preventing significant progress.

Concessions include adding back 11,300 acres of “manageable” timberlands that had been designated as proposed wilderness and the majority of previously logged parcels that could be ground-based or helicopter logged, he said.

But Carole Johnson, the former executive director of the defunct North Olympic Timber Action Committee, said Monday that timber interests had proposed 130,000 acres of second growth that had already been harvested that should remain in logging.

The real issue is former President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, which made Pacific Northwest national forests “predominantly wilderness,” Johnson said.

The wild and scenic rivers portion of the legislation is simply adding a layer of bureaucracy, she added.

“Generally speaking, the majority of the timberland that is owned by the federal government is already in wilderness. Those rivers that come out of a wilderness situation, and they want to make them more restrictive.

“How much higher can you get that wilderness designation?”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Customers at the Nordland General Store on Marrowstone Island look over cards and other items during a weekend of activities to celebrate the re-opening of the store after it had been closed for six years due to a fire. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Nordland General Store reopens with new model

Cooperative, board of directors leading operations of facility

Makah to cut ribbon on sawmill

Mill built in partnership with Port Angeles company

Elizabeth Resager of Bainbridge Island turns a sheep over so it is comfortable as she sheers its year-old woolen fleece, a highlight of the 41st Shepherd’s Festival at the Sequim Prairie Grange on Monday. The festival was half inside and half outside and included many vendors with sheep, goats, llamas and related products. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
Shepherd’s Festival

Elizabeth Resager of Bainbridge Island turns a sheep over so it is… Continue reading

Centrum awarded $45K grant from national endowment

Centrum has been approved for a Grants for Arts… Continue reading

Helen and Greg Starr, executors of James Minsky’s estate, cut the ribbon for LtCol James Minsky Place on May 17 with Cheri Tinker, executive director of Sarge’s Veteran Support, right, and Sarge’s board president Lorri Gilchrist, and city council members Harmony Rutter and Rachel Anderson. The facility will permanently house six disabled and/or elderly veterans in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Minsky Place opens to support elderly, disabled veterans

Sarge’s Veteran Support seeks five veterans for permanent housing

Public comment opens on Dabob Bay

State, county look to move lands into conservation

Clallam renews pact with investigative unit

Agencies are currently investigating shooting outside PA bank

Motrocyclist airlifted to Harborview after wreck

A San Antonio man was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center… Continue reading

WomenSpirit Coalition staff members include, from left, Michelle Williams, Dee Koester, Diane Good (in back), Cheryl Neskahi Coan, Erin Lopez Neskahi and Laura Fierro. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
WomenSpirit Coalition steps into new phase

Multi-service indigenous support organization to host open house

Members of the Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps League give a 21-gun salute at a Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles on Monday. The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6787 of Carlsborg and was one of many Memorial Day events held in Clallam and Jefferson counties. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Solemn ceremonies honor America’s war dead

Flowers, wreaths decorate gravesites across Peninsula

Peninsula College, teachers agree on contract

Three-year deal to raise faculty salaries

Clallam County pledges $1.5 million toward preserving two farms

Commitment would provide conservation easement on properties