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Local Supporters Cheer as Momentum for Wild Olympics Continues

The Wild Olympics Act, reintroduced by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA06) at the start of this year’s Congressional session, crosses the next hurdle on its way to reaching President Biden’s desk and becoming law.

Photo: Olympic lupine, Kevin McNeal

Yesterday, Wed. July 12th, The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was the subject of a congressional hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to gather more information before a subsequent vote in committee. The committee discussed the proposed legislation, including expert opinion and testimony from the Wild Olympics Campaign and its allies, alongside other public lands bills. Notably, both the US Forest Service (USFS) and the National Park Service (NPS) testified in support of the Wild Olympics legislation. 

The resulting net decline in habitat demonstrates the federal government’s failure to protect the Tribes’ treaty-reserved rights. In an era where we are witnessing unprecedented rollbacks of environmental safeguards on federal public lands, the Wild Olympics legislation would permanently protect some of the healthiest, intact salmon habitat left on the Peninsula. It is our heritage and cultural principles to protect the lands and waters Nature provides, as well as the natural resources she sustains. 
—Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Chairman  

Photo: Sol Duc falls, Kevin McNeal

The Wild Olympics legislation as introduced by Sen. Murray and Rep. Kilmer would designate the first Wilderness in Olympic National Forest in more than 30 years, and the first-ever Wild and Scenic Rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

Specifically, the legislation would protect 126,000 acres of federal land managed by the Olympic National Forest. It would also designate 19 new Wild and Scenic Rivers plus their tributaries—totaling more than 460 river miles—throughout Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. The remote headwaters of Olympic National Forest are sensitive spawning grounds for salmon, cutthroat, summer steelhead, bull trout, and other species. Elk, bear, and other wildlife rely on these unfragmented, roadless forests to survive and thrive. 

Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer’s Wild Olympics legislation will help protect our state’s shellfish industry, including hundreds of shellfishing jobs in Hood Canal alone – and many more in related industries like processing, shipping, and sales. … Our oyster beds depend on the clean, cold, silt-free water that drains off Olympic National Forest into Hood Canal. Protecting these watersheds allows our industry to grow, expand and continue to benefit the economy and ecology of Washington State.
Bill Taylor, President of Taylor Shellfish Farms (Shelton)

Timber is and always will be part of the Olympic Peninsula’s proud heritage. But our ancient forests and wild rivers are the natural legacies we will leave to our children and grandchildren. Senator Murray and Representative Kilmer’s bill protects our natural heritage while respecting our timber heritage. I thank them for their thoughtful leadership, and future generations will thank them too.
—Fred Rakevich, Retired logger and 49- year veteran of the timber industry (Elma)

We thank Senator Murray and her staff for continuing to champion the Wild Olympics Act and ensuring its inclusion in this latest Senate subcommittee hearing. The bill will now move back to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at large for further consideration. 

Our work to see Wild Olympics become a reality has spanned a decade of locally-driven public debate, exhaustive revision, and compromise to create the Wild Olympics Act and to ensure it provides the greatest possible benefit to our wild lands and waters, communities, and economy. We are encouraged by the latest subcommittee hearing and remain optimistic after the Wild Olympics Act passed the House with bipartisan support and advanced farther than ever before in the Senate last year. 

Read the full press release from the Wild Olympics Campaign HERE.