Murray plans to re-introduce Wild Olympics legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says she will re-introduce legislation this year that would expand wilderness designations and put areas around Olympic National Park off limits to logging.

On Monday, her staff posted a video urging supporters to help her with her proposal, which she first introduced last June in the U.S. Senate after environmental groups known as the Wild Olympics Campaign spent several years working on the plan.

On Tuesday, Murray spokesman Sean Coit confirmed that the legislation would be introduced again this year.

“Senator Murray has worked with the local community, including the Wild Olympics Campaign, to reach compromise legislation on the Wild Olympics legislation,” Coit wrote in an email. “She will be introducing the bill again this Congress, and looks forward to working with her colleagues and the community to move the bill forward.”

The legislation covers 126,554 acres of land that would be designated as wilderness. An additional 5,346 acres of wilderness could be designated by future administrations. The plan contains “wild and scenic” designations on 19 rivers and seven tributaries inside the park or outside of the park, mainly on state or federal lands.

“I’m very excited to be working with the Wild Olympics Campaign to pass the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, which will protect areas on the Olympic Peninsula,” states a message from Murray on Facebook.

The video was created by the Wild Olympics Campaign three months ago and features video and pictures of hunters and fishermen, along with hikers and goes into the basics behind the proposal, noting other rivers in the Puget Sound have faced potential dams and there’s a need to ensure that the Hood Canal and Puget Sound continue to have clean water sources to protect habitat and the shellfish industry.

The video doesn’t mention that the proposed wilderness areas are already protected as state Department of Natural Resources land or in the U.S. National Forest and that nobody has proposed placing a dam on any of the rivers suggested for a Wild & Scenic Rivers designation. Those are points groups opposing the legislation have continued to bring up.

Logging is not allowed in official wilderness areas. In the legislation proposed last year, 768 acres of what is considered timber that could be logged by conventional methods, as well as 830 acres of timberland that could only be logged by using a helicopter, would be designated as wilderness.There are also 2,978 acres of scattered timberland, but in areas even more remote than those designated for helicopter logging.

Last year, Murray teamed with Congressman Norm Dicks on the legislation. Dicks retired this year and Congressman Derek Kilmer was elected to his 6th Congressional District seat.

In an interview with The Daily World a couple of weeks ago, Kilmer said he has not re-introduced the Wild Olympics legislation and he had no immediate timeline for what he wants to do with the legislation.

“We’re meeting with proponents and opponents and plan to walk through all the details of the legislation when it is introduced,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer says he wants to increase the timber harvest levels in the Olympic National Forest.

Coit did not respond to questions as to whether Murray plans to seek any changes to the legislation and declined to say whether Murray would work with Kilmer’s Office.

The only other U.S. Representative that sponsored the Wild Olympics legislation last year was Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Seattle.