05.08.19

Wild Olympics plan unveiled -- 126,000 acres proposed for wilderness

A sweeping plan, carefully vetted on the Olympic Peninsula, would designate 126,000 acres of mountains and forests on the peninsula as wilderness and protect 19 streams under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The Wild Olympics proposal will be unveiled Thursday by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and is supported by five Native American tribes, as well as such major peninsula businesses as Taylor Shellfish and Ocean Gold Seafoods.

The land proposed for protection is in the doughnut shaped Olympic National Forest, which surrounds Olympic National Park. One place admired by many who drive U.S. 101 -- a high forested ridge overlooking Lake Quinault.

The Wild Olympics proposal was first advanced by then-Rep. Norm Dicks, with a version introduced in 2012 by Murray. Dicks retired, and his successor Kilmer took to the drawing boards seeking a broad range of support. No politician takes the Olympic Peninsula for granted.

The proposal was described by Kilmer as a "practical balanced strategy, and the congressman was at pains to give it local roots: "As someone who grew up in Port Angeles, I've always said that we don't have to choose between economic growth and protecting our environment. We should do both."

Olympic rain forests, mountains and coastline have been in contention for more than a century. Highlights:

--President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 designated an Olympic National Monument, to stop the slaughter of elk that now bear his name. He also established wildlife refuges in rocks off the Olympic Coast.

--The monument was cut under President Woodrow Wilson. But a 1937 visit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt led directly to creation of one of America's greatest national parks. Observing an ugly clearcut on federal land, FDR said he would "like to get my hands on the son-of-a-bitch who did this."

Visitors to this day can dine splendidly at Lake Quinault Lodge, where vistas of old growth trees helped make up Roosevelt's mind.

--The coastal strip of Olympic Park was added under President Harry Truman. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas twice led hikes down the beaches, to discourage plans for a road along the coast. The newlywed justice brought 21-year-old Joan Martin, the third Mrs. Douglas on one of the hikes -- and appropriated her air mattress when his sprang a leak.

--In the late 1970s, Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches were added to Olympic National Park, along with the shoreline of Lake Ozette. By this time, conservationists had beaten back efforts to take parts of the Bogachiel and Calawah Rivers out of the park.

--The 1984 Washington Wilderness bill created five protected wilderness areas, totaling more than 80,000 acres, in the Olympic National Forest surrounding the park. Notable, the summits of Mount Ellinor, and the brothers, Mounts Buckhorn and Townsend, part of the skyline seen from Seattle.

SEE ALSO: Connelly: Preserving a pearl of a view -- Oyster Dome on Blanchard Mountain is saved

In the legislation, Congress also gave Wilderness Act protection to more than 95% of the national park.

Sen. Murray has a track record in protecting wild places.

She was chief architect of the 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in eastern Snohomish County, created to protect forests and salmon spawning streams. In 2014, Murray worked with GOP Rep. Dave Reichert, getting 23,000 acres of land in King County added to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.

The legislation also protected the Middle Fork-Snoqualmie River -- closest mountain valley to Seattle -- under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

--The coastal strip of Olympic Park was added under President Harry Truman. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas twice led hikes down the beaches, to discourage plans for a road along the coast. The newlywed justice brought 21-year-old Joan Martin, the third Mrs. Douglas on one of the hikes -- and appropriated her air mattress when his sprang a leak.

--In the late 1970s, Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches were added to Olympic National Park, along with the shoreline of Lake Ozette. By this time, conservationists had beaten back efforts to take parts of the Bogachiel and Calawah Rivers out of the park.

--The 1984 Washington Wilderness bill created five protected wilderness areas, totaling more than 80,000 acres, in the Olympic National Forest surrounding the park. Notable, the summits of Mount Ellinor, and the brothers, Mounts Buckhorn and Townsend, part of the skyline seen from Seattle.

SEE ALSO: Connelly: Preserving a pearl of a view -- Oyster Dome on Blanchard Mountain is saved

In the legislation, Congress also gave Wilderness Act protection to more than 95% of the national park.

Sen. Murray has a track record in protecting wild places.

She was chief architect of the 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in eastern Snohomish County, created to protect forests and salmon spawning streams. In 2014, Murray worked with GOP Rep. Dave Reichert, getting 23,000 acres of land in King County added to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.

The legislation also protected the Middle Fork-Snoqualmie River -- closest mountain valley to Seattle -- under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.


By:  Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle Pi