WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act introduced by Congressman Derek Kilmer.
The bill, HR 2642, was approved as part of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, a package of six bills that would designate 1.3 million acres of wilderness in Washington state, California and Colorado.
Wild Olympics would designate more than 126,000 acres of public land as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries on the Olympic Peninsula as wild and scenic rivers.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Seattle, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“I’m proud to see the House pass this practical, balanced strategy, that will protect the wildest and most pristine places on the Peninsula while ensuring we can keep and grow jobs in our natural resource industries and other sectors,” said Kilmer, a native of Port Angeles who now lives in Gig Harbor.
The Democrat represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
Kilmer said the legislation has been adjusted through hundreds of meetings with stakeholders since it was initially introduced in 2012 by then Congressman Norm Dicks and Murray.
“I am grateful for the years-long collaboration to create a proposal that works for folks across the community – including tribes, sportsmen, conservation groups, timber communities, business leaders, shellfish growers, and everyone in-between,” Kilmer said in a press release.
Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), a regional trade association, disagreed in a press release issued after House passage of the legislation.
”While marginal changes have been made to the Wild Olympics legislation, most of our industry’s concerns have not been addressed,” he said.
“Wild Olympics proponents have made false claims that this wilderness bill is non-controversial and does not impact working forests,” he continued.
“By definition, wilderness explicitly bans – forever – science-based active forest management that can help achieve important conservation goals… . In our view, putting arbitrary lines around a dynamic, at-risk ecosystem and prohibiting any and all forms of responsible, sustainable management won’t deliver the restoration, resiliency, and true conservation Washingtonians expect and deserve.”
He said that the designations also require new procedural requirements for the staff of the Olympic National Forest that slow response to growing maintenance needs.
The Forks City Council on Monday approved 4-1 a resolution opposing the legislation.
Murray said she is committed to keeping up the fight in the Senate to ensure this critical legislation becomes law and our prized and pristine wilderness is protected.”