NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 26th, 2021

U.S. House passes sweeping wilderness protection bill that includes PNW’s Olympics

The U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, on a 227–200 vote, has passed leg­is­la­tion that would add 1.5 mil­lion acres to America’s wilder­ness preser­va­tion sys­tem plus 1,000 miles of water­ways to the Nation­al Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The bill con­tains a care­ful­ly worked out good deed in Wash­ing­ton. It would des­ig­nate an addi­tion­al 126,000 acres of wilder­ness on the Olympic Penin­su­la and put por­tions of nine­teen streams under pro­tec­tion of the wild rivers law.

The sun rises over Hood Canal and the Olympics

The sun ris­es over Hood Canal and the Olympic moun­tains on a mid­sum­mer morn­ing (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“As some­one who grew up on the Olympic Penin­su­la, I learned first-hand that eco­nom­ic growth and envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion go hand in hand,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Derek Kilmer, D‑Washington, who worked out the Wild Olympics pro­pos­al and rep­re­sents the state’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al District.

He did so with such skill that more than eight hun­dred busi­ness, envi­ron­men­tal, and civic orga­ni­za­tions have endorsed the plan.

Th pro­tec­tion of wild places in the Olympics have been – at least for one hun­dred and ten years – a bipar­ti­san cause.

Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt used the Antiq­ui­ties Act to cre­ate a 450,000-acre Olympic Nation­al Mon­u­ment, to stop the slaugh­ter of elk that now bear his name.

Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt vis­it­ed the Penin­su­la in 1937.

He was per­suad­ed on the need for a nation­al park after observ­ing clear cuts on nation­al for­est land. Observ­ing one hor­rif­ic cut, FDR said he would like to get his hands around “the son-of-a-bitch who did this.”

The park’s coastal strip was added under Pres­i­dent Tru­man. Shi Shi Beach and Lake Ozette became part of the park under leg­is­la­tion cham­pi­oned by Gov­er­nor Dan Evans and signed by Pres­i­dent Ford. Pres­i­dent Rea­gan signed the 1984 Wash­ing­ton Wilder­ness Bill that includ­ed 80,000-plus acres of the donut-shaped Olympic Nation­al For­est, which sur­rounds the nation­al park.

The Penin­su­la has even seen rival hikes in ser­vice of the same cause.

The 2016 Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Bill Bryant led a Ted­dy Roo­sevelt-themed hike oppos­ing Trump regime plans to open off­shore waters to oil leas­ing. Weeks lat­er, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son led Democ­rats up the Olympic Coast to hon­or FDR’s cre­ation of the park, and William O. Dou­glas’ beach back­packs in oppo­si­tion to a pro­posed coastal highway.

That bipar­ti­san tra­di­tion end­ed today.

All three Repub­li­cans in Washington’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion – Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Dan New­house and Jamie Her­rera Beut­ler – vot­ed against the Pro­tect­ing America’s Wilder­ness and Pub­lic Lands Act.

All sev­en of the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic House mem­bers sup­port­ed it.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, Mar­i­lyn Strick­land (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son (ID)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, Dan New­house, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz (OR), Russ Fulcher (ID), Matt Rosendale (MT), Don Young (AK)

Ida­ho’s Mike Simp­son was one of just eight Repub­li­cans nation­wide to back the bill, and the only Repub­li­can from the Pacif­ic North­west to vote aye.

”This leg­is­la­tion will pro­tect and pre­serve our pub­lic lands while also pro­mot­ing out­door recre­ation, a bal­ance many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will appre­ci­ate,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er, D‑Washington. The leg­is­la­tion pre­serves “the last (unpro­tect­ed) remain­ing acres of ancient and mature for­est on the Olympic Penin­su­la,” added U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith, D‑Washington.

If you ever stop at the Lake Quin­ault Lodge, acces­si­ble from U.S. High­way 101, dine in its Roo­sevelt Room. It was here that FDR gazed out on the Olympic rain­for­est and com­mit­ted to a park pro­tect­ing it.

The Wild Olympics plan pro­tects forests on buttes over­look­ing Lake Quinault.

Once upon a time, the log­ging indus­try mobi­lized work­ers to denounce plans to “lock up” forests. It was joined by pro-indus­try Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton forestry pro­fes­sors, mem­o­rably labeled “bios­ti­tutes” by the late KING-TV pun­dit Bob Sim­mons. The bios­ti­tutes com­plained about all the old growth “wast­ed” by putting the Bogachiel and Calawah Rivers into the nation­al park.

But busi­ness on the Penin­su­la is now boost­ing Wild Olympics.

How come?

“It pro­tects the rivers and streams vital to the health of our hatch­eries and to the health and restora­tion of Puget Sound: Our oys­ter beds depend on the clean, cold, silt-free water that drains off Olympic Nation­al For­est into Hood Canal,” said Bill Tay­lor, pres­i­dent of Tay­lor Shell­fish Farms.

Wash­ing­ton is home to four mil­lion acres of fed­er­al­ly des­ig­nat­ed wilder­ness along with near­ly two hun­dred miles of pro­tect­ed rivers (the lion’s shake in the “Mag­ic Skag­it” riv­er sys­tem of north­west Wash­ing­ton), U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rick Larsen, D‑Washington, not­ed Fri­day. Pro­tect­ed lands help sup­port a $26.2 bil­lion out­door recre­ation econ­o­my in the Ever­green State.

Wild Olympics is cospon­sored in the Sen­ate by U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington. Mur­ray’s Repub­li­can col­leagues have the votes to block the larg­er Pro­tect­ing America’s Wilder­ness and Pub­lic Lands Act.

That’s because six­ty votes are cur­rent­ly required to break a filibuster.

Yet, through­out her career, Sen­a­tor Mur­ray has demon­strat­ed an apti­tude for get­ting pub­lic lands pro­tect­ed. She guid­ed the Wild Sky Wilder­ness bill through Con­gress and onto George W. Bush’s desk for sig­na­ture. She per­suad­ed an obdu­rate Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Doc Hast­ings to free up pro­tec­tion of the Mid­dle Fork-Sno­qualmie Riv­er and Alpine Lakes Wilder­ness addi­tions. She per­suad­ed the Clin­ton Admin­is­tra­tion to cre­ate the Han­ford Reach Nation­al Monument.

She’s less acces­si­ble these days, but has a tell­tale ges­ture of deter­mi­na­tion, putting hands to her tem­ples and say­ing: “I want this to get done.”

It’s that time again.

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One Comment

  1. It’s time to sun­set the fil­i­buster. It’s an archa­ic tool — a ves­tige of Amer­i­can apartheid
    — meant to deprive the peo­ple of their pow­er to elect a Con­gress that will act on the issues we care about.

    # by Ric Ilgenfritz :: February 27th, 2021 at 10:44 AM

One Ping

  1. […] When the House vot­ed recent­ly on wilder­ness leg­is­la­tion, includ­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Derek Kilmer’s 126,000-acre Wild Olympics plan, all three of Washington’s Repub­li­can House mem­bers vot­ed nay. […]

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