Feds have had a dubious role on the Peninsula


My grandfather, John Olson, homesteaded in the Upper Quinault River Valley in 1893 and brought his family west from Minnesota in 1894. Elk were very scarce in the valley at that time. The scarcity of elk was not due to hunting; there was no road or trail from Hoquiam and Aberdeen at that time. The absence of a stable elk population was due to large packs of wolves.

Grandfather searched out local river drainages and was able to catch several elk calves and raised elk for several years as a supply of meat for his family and other homesteaders.

The Olympic Peninsula pioneers in all the peninsula watersheds poisoned the wolves and the elk recovered.

If wolves are introduced to Olympic National Park our peninsula will return to the late 1890s and the elk population will decline to near extinction levels.

Over browsing is not a cause of river erosion. Has any government agency ever produced scientific data to support such a claim?

“Logging is causing the decline of the spotted owl.” That claim was made in the early 1990s to lock up thousands of acres of old-growth forests. The claim had absolutely no scientific validity, nor does it now; in fact government scientists now put the blame for the spotted owl’s decline on the barred owl. Again, is there any sound scientific evidence to support this claim. This is nothing but voodoo science, forced upon us by a government that has no regard for local jobs, economy or families. Over browsing is just another hypothesis by government voodoo scientists.

Reporter Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun wrote, “Elk hunting and reductions in their habitat by logging … continued to deplete the elk populations.” Whether one agrees with logging or not, I think we all agree in this day and age that the harvest/removal of trees from forests improves elk habitat. From which scientist did Mr. Dunagan get his information?

First Olympic National Park Superintendent Preston P. Macy epitomized the park and most of its future superintendents. They are not trustworthy. My father, Ignar Olson, was one of the owners of the Big West Copper Syndicate and had the beginnings of mines on both Howe and Lichy creeks in the Quinault Valley. When these areas were included within the boundaries of Olympic National Park Macy came to father and said, “Ignar, I don’t want any animosity between us but the mine is now property of the park. I will allow you a year to remove all of your equipment and personal belongings.” In the 1980s, I read the original bill that put this land in the park and one of the directives stated “any existing mines shall have five years to prove up on the claim; otherwise it shall revert to the park.” This did not surprise me. The people of the Quinault Valley have lived with federal deceit since the 1930s!

Superintendent Fred Overly, the replacement to Macy, attempted to upgrade the park in many areas. He began a program of removing windfalls and snags, using the profits from these timber sales to build bridges, trails, shelters and other park infrastructure. Many people in urban area, such as Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton, Olympia, etc. shudder at the thought of tree removal within a national park. Yet, as they drive the loop road in the Quinault Valley they have absolutely no idea that these trees were removed.

Infrastructure within a wilderness area is far too costly to maintain. Wilderness designation for Olympic National Park 1976 was merely a way for the park to justify allowing roads, trails, shelters and infrastructure to fall into disrepair. Simply put, Olympic National Park has no money and we now have fewer roads, trails and shelters and less infrastructure.

The Dosewallips Road is a prime example of permanent road closure caused by wilderness designation. As an added “bonus” for Olympic National Park wilderness advocates there is no longer a campground to maintain due to the washout. Reporter Tristan Baurick of the Kitsap Sun wrote that “Rerouting the road away from the river’s eroding bank would mean clearing several acres of old growth forest.”

Having seen the washout several years ago, I assume that the reporter’s “several acres” means four or five, at the most. I believe that would be a net loss of approximately .0025 percent of the wilderness within the park. I would sacrifice that for the thousands of people in the future who would be able to see, first hand, the Upper Dosewallips Valley. In addition, how would these thousands of people affect the economy of Brinnon and other small rural towns on Hood Canal?

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the means by which our federal government purchases private property within and surrounding national parks. This is a dangerous and much used method purchasing private lands. When a park purchases private lands it has several negative effects on local economies: loss of families; loss of county tax base and loss of school enrollment/tax base.

Millions and millions of dollars are spent from this fund by our federal government to buy private property to be put into parks, wilderness areas, Wild & Scenic river corridors, national monuments, wildlife refuges or now, National Blueways! These properties from this point forth are locked up and under government control forever.

Wouldn’t it be wiser to change this fund to help maintain U.S. parks that are now hopelessly in debt billions of dollars? The National Park Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of $10.8 billion and a critical system maintenance backlog of $3.7 billion.

Olympic National Park, in 2004, was forced to cut seasonal employees from 130 to 25 when their budget had a shortfall of more than $6 million. The result was that operating hours at visitor centers were reduced, public education programs were cut, campground seasons were shortened, entry stations and back country trails were closed and there were fewer law enforcement patrols. In the condition that our federal government is in, do any of us see Olympic National Park receiving a budget increase?

John Olson is a Quinault resident.