Wild Olympics Bill Gets U.S. Senate Hearing
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act cleared a major hurdle in April 2016 when the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on the bill for the first time.
The Wild Olympics bill was reintroduced by Senator Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer last spring. It will protect permanently more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as Wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, a total of 464 river miles, as Wild and Scenic Rivers. If enacted, the legislation would designate the first new wilderness in Olympic National Forest in three decades and the first-ever protected Wild and Scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.
“This step is great news for anyone who enjoys our prized wild spaces, and wants to protect them for generations to come. I am going to keep pushing to move this bill forward,” said Senator Patty Murray.
Both the Forest Service, in oral testimony, and the Park Service, in written testimony, supported the bill. The Park Service requested one important addition, that Wild and Scenic River protection be extended downstream on the Elwha River to include the reach formerly inundated beneath the Glines Canyon Dam and the Lake Mills reservoir and out the free-flowing river to the park boundary.
OPA has been advocating Forest Service Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River protections in the Olympics since 1974. We succeeded in saving some (but not all) outstanding Forest Service wilderness areas in 1984. However, a Wild and Scenic study bill was defeated by timber interests then. This is the first time protection for the Peninsula’s outstanding wild rivers is addressed in pending legislation.
In our letter to the Senate committee, the Wild Olympics Campaign wrote, “These free-flowing rivers and streams are also vital to the long-term health and recovery of Hood Canal and Puget Sound … By granting these natural treasures the permanent protection they lack today, this legislation makes a down payment on the economic future of generations to come.”
Shortly before the hearing, the Wild Olympics Campaign announced more than 100 new endorsements by local Olympic Peninsula business and elected officials. The new additions bring the total number of local businesses, elected officials, faith leaders and sportsmen, and conservation and outdoor recreation groups to more than 550 endorsers.
If you haven’t already, please sign the Wild Olympics petition now .
To see the Wild Olympics Campaign letter in support of the bill, click here. To view the list of Wild Olympics endorsements, click here. For updates and future developments regarding Wild Olympics, check the Wild Olympics website and our OPA website here.
New Wilderness for Olympic National Forest
by Tim McNulty
In 1984, Congress passed the landmark Washington Wilderness Act. OPA and its supporters spearheaded a successful multi-year campaign that resulted in five new wilderness areas in Olympic National Forest. The Buckhorn, Brothers, Mount Skokomish, Wonder Mountain, and Colonel Bob Wilderness Areas protected some 89,000 of the most spectacular high country, upper watersheds, and scenic hiking destinations in the Olympic National Forest.
Today, hikers take in sweeping views from Marmot Pass, explore the wild Duckabush Valley, camp beside Mildred Lakes, or pause beneath the breathtaking forests of Colonel Bob, knowing these areas are forever protected from logging, road building, or the invasion of dirt bikes and quads.
Back in 1984, clearcutting of old-growth forests and roadbuilding into steep, roadless country were at their peak in Olympic National Forest. Protection of low-elevation river valleys—and restoration of previously logged lands—were pitted against saving our most popular hiking areas. We gained important victories in the Gray Wolf and Duckabush valleys, but many vital areas were sacrificed. This was painfully true in the heavily logged western Olympics. No wilderness areas were designated between the Buckhorn Wilderness in the Dungeness watershed and Colonel Bob in the Quinault.
Now, more than a quarter-century later, it’s time to correct that oversight. OPA in partnership with the Wild Olympics Campaign is working to preserve those areas in Olympic National Forest that remain to be protected and restore key habitat lands that have suffered earlier abuse.
Critical middle- and low-elevation forests that are important habitats for a suite of wildlife from redback voles to Roosevelt elk are recommended for wilderness. So are key streams and tributaries that provide important habitats for salmon and other aquatic species.
Heavily used recreation areas and popular trails are included, as are several decommissioned roads—or roads scheduled for removal—and reforested cuts. Our vision is to enhance existing protected wilderness as well as complement ongoing salmon restoration efforts by preserving key forests and watersheds that will protect rivers, streams, salmon and wildlife.
As increasing resource and recreation demands are placed on Olympic National Forest, new wilderness areas will protect what is most important.
A complete map of the Wild Olympics Campaign proposal showing wilderness, park additions, and wild and scenic river recommendations is available on the campaign’s website, www.wildolympics.org.
In Olympic National Forest, proposed wilderness areas are included in the Elwha, Dungeness, Gray Wolf, Big Quilcene, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Hamma Hamma, Skokomish, Humptulips, Quinault, Queets, and Quillayute watersheds. As of this writing, some 136,000 acres of Olympic National Forest are proposed for wilderness. On these two pages are some of the highlights.
With these additions, the future ecological health and integrity of Olympic Park, Forest, and the Olympic ecosystem will be a huge step closer to reality. Please lend your support to the Wild Olympics effort. Contact your elected officials today.
What You Can Do:
Contact your congressional Representatives and Senators and urge them to support:
- Additional Wilderness Areas in Olympic National Forest
- Wild and Scenic River designations for Olympic rivers
Click here and sign the Wild Olympics petition.
To learn more about the Wild Olympics Campaign, visit www.wildolympics.org.
Olympic National Forest Wilderness Additions
1 Elwha Foothills
The Mount Baldy and Madison Creek areas protect habitat for elk, blacktail deer and fisher. Both areas increase protections for the largest salmon restoration project in the U.S.
2 Dungeness Rainshadow
The popular Deer Ridge area will complete wilderness protection for the middle Gray Wolf watershed, including the lower Deer Ridge trail and recent Slab Camp road restoration. The Lower Gray Wolf includes the first two miles of the ever-popular trail. Three O’Clock Ridge and Upper Dungeness protect the middle Dungeness slopes and stunning old-growth forest along the upper Dungeness trail leading to the Buckhorn Wilderness.
3 Mount Townsend North
The northern ridges and trails of popular Mount Townsend are long overdue for wilderness protection. Dirty Face Ridge, Sleepy Hollow, Little Quilcene, and Silver Lake way trails offer rugged day hiking, summer wildflowers, and sweeping views—all within easy access from Puget Sound.
4 East Slope and Hood Canal
Hamilton Mountain and North Dosewallips Ridge are prominent features from Puget Sound. Jupiter Ridge offers a splendid ridgetop hike to Mount Jupiter in the Brothers Wilderness. The alpine summits of Mounts Ellinor and Washington anchor the wall of canal-front peaks. Lena Lake, tucked beneath rugged peaks, remains the most popular backpack destination in the Olympic Forest.
5 Skokomish Wilderness
Lightning Peak looms over Lake Cushman. Beyond it the South Fork Skokomish River harbors elk, salmon, and a scenic, year-round trail through one of the most splendid, but unprotected old-growth forests in the Olympics.
6 Quinault Rain Forest
The Quinault valley is a last lowland stronghold for elk, salmon, and the quiet grandeur of the lowland Olympic rain forest. South Quinault Ridge forms the backdrop to Lake Quinault, and popular nature trails take visitors of all ages through groves magnificent trees. Moonlight Dome protects a more remote, bit equally stunning forest. And Sams River, once roaded and logged, is now a recovering forest and important tributary to ONP’s Queets River.
7 Quillayute Watershed
No wilderness has been designated in the heavily logged Northwest corner of Olympic National Forest, but salmon still depend upon the many streams of the vast Quillayute watershed. Elk Reade protects the lower Bogachiel River just west of Olympic Park; Rugged Ridge connects the park to the remote Sitkum River to the north, and Alkee Creek is an important tributary to the salmon-rich Sol Duc River.