02.22.21

Growing Jobs and Protecting Our Natural Treasures

Hello, Folks –

This week, Congress will debate and work to pass the American Rescue Plan—an emergency legislative package to deal with the COVID-19 public health crisis and the economic fallout from it. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has now cost nearly a half-million lives, equaling the number of American’s lost in combat from the Vietnam War, World War I, and World War II combined. To address the pandemic, the bill funds more vaccinations and directs more relief to public health. 

Sadly, we’ve also seen far too many families hurt by the economic downturn. With that in mind, the American Rescue Plan provides immediate, direct relief to families bearing the weight of the crisis, and supports affected communities. I wrote more about the bill, its core components, and why experts and economists across the board agree about the need for it in my last e-newsletter.

In addition, this week, Congress is also taking action to protect our nation’s public lands and waters, promote outdoor recreation, and support rural economies. We’ll be voting on a legislative package that includes a bill I introduced to help grow jobs and protect our natural treasures. Let’s get into the details!

Passing a Bill to Grow Jobs and Protect Natural Treasures

As many of you know, I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula. I know firsthand how special our region is and how our public lands contribute to the fabric of who we are. In our region, we understand that protecting public lands isn’t just about saving these unforgettable places for future generations. It also means protecting high-quality jobs for the next generation.

That’s important to me as someone who grew up here  and as someone who worked in economic development professionally for over a decade. I’ve seen how our natural resources contribute to our economic vitality.

Each year, millions of people travel to enjoy our state’s parks and forests, contributing $22 billion in economic impact and supporting 200,000 jobs in Washington’s outdoor economy. Our public lands have provided local entrepreneurs with opportunities to start restaurants, tour companies, hotels, and other small businesses.

Protecting these places has been, and always will be, a priority to me. That’s why I partnered with Senator Patty Murray to introduce the Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The bill permanently protects some of our most environmentally sensitive areas by designating some of these public lands as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers. 

I’m excited to report that this upcoming week, the Wild Olympics Act will be voted on by the full House of Representatives as part of a package of bills called the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act!

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The Wild Olympics Act evolved through extensive engagement with tribes, conservation groups, timber communities, business leaders, shellfish growers, and everyone in between. Because of that public dialogue, the bill is formally supported by more than 800 community leaders, including Democrats and Republicans, business owners, local mayors, sportsmen and fishing guides, conservation groups, and tribal leaders (you can hear from some of them in the video here).

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In addition to protecting outdoor recreation and bolstering the economy, the Wild Olympics bill helps our regional efforts to ensure sources of clean drinking water, support salmon and steelhead habitats, and protect waterways vital to our shellfish industry.

Just as important as what the bill does is what it does not do. Based on input from local and regional timber leaders, thousands of acres were removed from the initial proposal to ensure the legislation would have no impact on the harvestable timber base in the Olympic National Forest. In addition, language was added to the bill to ensure that the proposal will have no impact on how the Washington Department of Natural Resources manages state-owned lands either. The legislation will not close, decommission, or otherwise restrict access to any existing forest service roads or trail-heads. It will not affect any private property rights.

Each aspect of the proposal is a testament to the folks in our region who reached out and shared their input! I’m sincerely grateful for that.

The Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the essence of a win-win. Our region’s character is defined by its natural beauty and its future depends on a strong, diversified economy. I’m hopeful that Congress will pass it this week!

Recovering Puget Sound

In addition to working to protect some of the environmentally sensitive areas of the Olympic Peninsula, I’ve been working to secure support for the recovery and restoration of Puget Sound - our region’s most iconic body of water. Puget Sound is a place on which generations of friends and neighbors have built their lives and made their livelihoods. It’s a critical part of our environment and economy, and home to culturally iconic species like salmon, orca, and Dungeness crab. But we know that if future generations  including my own children  are going to have those same opportunities to build their lives here, we've got to take action now to protect and restore the Sound.

That’s why, in 2013, I worked with my friend (and now our state’s Lieutenant Governor) Denny Heck to establish the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus as a way of bringing more attention to the urgent need to restore and recover the Sound. Over the years, we have successfully worked to secure vital federal investments that provide critical grant support to state, local, and tribal governments as they work to implement projects to improve water quality, protect shorelines, and enhance fish passage and salmon habitat.

Last week, with a new session of Congress underway, I re-established the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus with newly elected Representative Marilyn Strickland. We got right to work – and introduced critical legislation that will ensure the federal government lives up to its responsibility to help this magnificent body of water, the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound Act (or the PUGET SOS Act, if you are pro-acronym!).

This bill will ensure the federal government is the strong partner that folks in our region need to make real progress – and will assist regional efforts to restore salmon and orca populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, and uphold tribal treaty rights.

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There is still plenty of work and significant challenges ahead  storm-water runoff, habitat loss, and harmful algae blooms among them  but the PUGET SOS Act will make meaningful progress toward protecting the estuary at the heart of our region’s identity and economy. I’m hopeful that with new leadership in the Senate, and President Biden’s commitment to protecting our environment, we can get this bill passed and signed into law!

Working for You

Supporting Our Small Businesses

Our region's small businesses are the backbone of our economy and unfortunately, they're facing unprecedented challenges. Last week, I held a Facebook Live town hall meeting with the director of the Minority Business Development Agency Tacoma Business Center, Linda Womack, to answer your questions and talk about the resources and small business relief available for Black-Owned businesses and minority-owned businesses across our region. You can catch the conversation by clicking the video below – and be sure to check out their resource page here!

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Finding Ways to Boost Broadband Capabilities

Earlier this month I sat down (virtually!) with some of the leaders of the Grays Harbor Public Utility District, who are not just keeping the lights on, but working hard to get everyone  especially those in rural areas  connected to broadband internet. I look forward to continuing our efforts to connect communities to high-speed internet and create more economic opportunities for more people in more places. By doing so, we will create new jobs and businesses, empower students by placing new information at their fingertips, and help rural communities get in on the economic growth.

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Supporting New Moms and Families

Nutrition First Washington ensures that women, infants, and children across our region are healthy and have access to nutritious meals – especially during these challenging times. I’m committed to ensuring that Nutrition First and their partners have the federal investments and assistance they need to continue supporting our families  now and in the future!

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OK – that’s it for now, folks. Take care of yourselves – and of one another. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek