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Bill in Congress Would Protect Olympic National Forest Land, Rivers

A bill in Congress would protect more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
A bill in Congress would protect more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
July 11, 2019

QUILCENE, Wash. – After a decade of work, a bill to protect sensitive parts of the Olympic National Forest is poised to move ahead in Congress.

On Wednesday, a U.S. House Natural Resources subcommittee held a hearing on the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

It would permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of the forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their tributaries as wild and scenic – the first river protections of its kind on the Olympic Peninsula.

Roy Nott, who testified in favor of the bill, runs the consulting firm LD Nott Company and is a former timber industry executive. He says protecting the Olympics' hiking, fishing and hunting spots will offer a competitive edge for building the region's economic future.

"It's not just the recreation industry itself,” he states. “It's the quality of life that attracts the unique people you need to either retain in the communities, if they're bright young people, or attract to the communities if they're elsewhere."

The decade hammering out details ensured the bill wouldn't impact any timber jobs on the peninsula.

More than 12,000 local residents have signed a petition supporting the legislation. It's also gained endorsements from local tribes, businesses and the mayors of towns such as Aberdeen, Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

Nott grew up in the town of Raymond, south of the Olympics. He says after work stints in the South and Northeast, he decided to come back home because no other places compared to it.

"I just love the area,” he states. “I love the ability that I can get up in Aberdeen on a nice Saturday winter morning and head up and be hiking in the Olympics. I mean, it's a remarkable place."

Starting in 2009, the Wild Olympics Campaign and the offices of Rep. Derek Kilmer, Sen. Patty Murray and former Rep. Norm Dicks conducted more than 500 meetings with local stakeholders for input on this bill. It was reintroduced in Congress in May.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA