A proposal to create a new wilderness area in the Northwest took a step forward today when a pair of Washington lawmakers introduced their Wild Olympics legislation.
The bill would protect nearly 127,000 acres of the Olympic National Forest from logging, road-building, and other activities by designating it as wilderness. It also authorizes future administrations to add about 5,300 acres as protected wilderness and designates 19 rivers and 7 tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The area to be set aside is smaller than what environmentalists initially sought Even so, the Quilcene, Wash.-based Wild Olympics Campaign is “thrilled with this news and we enthusiastically support the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012,” according to a statement from its chair, Connie Gallant, that was posted on the group’s website.
The proposed wilderness areas essentially expand the footprint of protected forests on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. They are adjacent to forestland already protected as part of Olympic National Park or currently designated wilderness.
Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks described their Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as a boon for jobs as well as the environment.
“This legislation will protect sources of clean drinking water, preserve critical salmon and steelhead habitat, and protect the area economy,” Dicks said in a statement.
The two Washington Democrats said the bill was drawn up to reflect consensus among area residents consulted over a period of nearly three years.
They said their offices held large community meetings and smaller individual meetings across the region to hear from local families, business owners, organizations and American Indian tribes.
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