Wilderness on Olympic Peninsula Seeks Permanent Protection From Congress
Communities on the Olympic Peninsula could get a new wilderness area to hike — the first in 30 years — permanently protecting 126,500 acres of forest and 464 miles of river.
2020 update: On Feb. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act. This packages includes the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (S. 1382 and H.R. 2642), a bill championed by Washington's own Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer. In addition to protecting 5 other wilderness areas across the country, it will permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as federally-designated wilderness and 464 miles of river as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Now it's on to the Senate. We thank Sen. Murray and Rep.Kilmer for continuing to push this effort forward.
Keeping the Olympics wild
The Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Protection Act would protect more than 126,000 acres of new wilderness — the first on Olympic National Forest in three decades.
The act would also provide the first-ever Wild and Scenic River designations on the Olympic Peninsula. This would provide lasting protection while also ensuring critical access to trails and recreation sites in the area.
What is federally designated wilderness?
In 1964, the Wilderness Act was signed into law in order to protect “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
This ensures permanent preservation for a precious landscape so that future generations can continue to enjoy it without having to worry about it being lost to non-recreation or conservation purposes. Designated wilderness is the highest level of protection for public lands managed by the federal government. This designation does not affect private property rights.
Hiking Washington's wilderness
Washington's has 31 wilderness areas, and hiking is a wonderful way to explore them. Eighty percent of Washington's wilderness is within 100 miles of major metropolitan areas, making our state's wilderness some of the most accessible in the nation.
As Washington's population continues to grow, wilderness areas are critical for the continuation of our natural heritage, offering outdoors enthusiasts a place of refuge from the often frenetic pace of modern life.
Protecting community values
This bill evolved from legislation introduced by Senator Murray and former Representative Norm Dicks after three years of public engagement with community members who live around the national forest, local business owners, Native American tribes and other organizations.
“The Olympic Peninsula is home to some of Washington state’s most prized wild spaces, and I look forward to working with Congressman Kilmer to make sure this pristine environment is preserved for generations to come,” said Senator Patty Murray in a press release.
“We listened to small business owners, landowners, tribes, and environmental advocates in putting together a proposal that works for our local communities," said Representative Kilmer. "It is part of a practical, balanced strategy to protect the natural beauty of our region while attracting businesses and helping them stay, grow, and invest in our future.”
WTA joins more than 500 local businesses, farms, faith leaders, local elected officials, business leaders, hunting, fishing, recreation & conservation groups in supporting the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
You can find more information at the Wild Olympics website.