U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray have announced their support for a plan that would add 130,000 acres of land to wilderness areas in Olympic National Forest, designate 23 rivers as “wild and scenic” and open the door to adding 20,000 acres to Olympic National Park.
Connie Gallant, chairwoman of Wild Olympics, told me that the group has been working with stakeholder and community groups to consolidate support on the Olympic Peninsula. Quoting Gallant’s statement on the website:
“Over the past two years, Wild Olympics has been reaching out to Peninsula communities to build support from diverse local voices, listen to concerns and get feedback on our draft proposal. More than 4,500 Peninsula residents have signed our petition, and nearly 200 Peninsula businesses, farms, faith leaders, hunting and fishing groups, elected officials, conservation and civic groups support Wild Olympics.”
It is not obvious that wilderness is a true water issue — the focus of this blog — but Bill Taylor, vice president of Taylor Shellfish Farms, is fairly convincing:
“The two largest shellfish hatcheries that supply seed to the West Coast industry are located on Hood Canal. Well over 150 jobs are provided in Hood Canal alone by the industry, not including the indirect jobs such as processing, sales and shipping. By protecting Olympic Peninsula forest and river watersheds, we ensure clean and safe water so that shellfish companies can continue to grow and further benefit the economy and ecology of Washington state.”
The above is one testimonial on the Wild Olympics website, which also includes statements by Bremerton’s Mike Hank of Veterans Conservation Corps, Mayor Michelle Sandoval of Port Townsend, Sequim author Tim McNulty of Olympic Park Associates, Hoodsport’s Ron Gold of RG Forestry Consultants, Aberdeen’s Roy Nott of Paneltech and Gardiner’s Dave Bailey of Greywolf Fly Fishing Club and Trout Unlimited.
Wild Olympics was started by Olympic Park Associates, Olympic Forest Coalition, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society and North Olympic Group – Sierra Club. Added later were Washington Wilderness Coalition, The Mountaineers, Pew Environment Group, Sierra Club, American Rivers and American Whitewater.
To counteract the work of the Wild Olympics Campaign, Dan Boeholt of Aberdeen founded Working Wild Olympics, because he does not believe wilderness designations will be helpful.
“We’re arguing that if you put these lands into wilderness, it will restrict public access,” Boeholt told me. “There are miles and miles of roads that would be affected.”
Dicks and Murray say they will propose specific legislation after listening to the public. These meetings have been scheduled:
Port Townsend: Dec. 1, 5 to 7 p.m., Chapel Building, Fort Worden State Park Conference Center.
Shelton: Dec. 2, 5 to 7 p.m., Shelton Civic Center, 525 W. Cota Street.
Port Angeles: Dec. 3, 3 to 5 p.m., Museum at the Carnegie, 207 S. Lincoln St.
Hoquiam: Dec. 4, 3 to 5 p.m., Central Elementary School Library, 310 Simpson Ave.