Sequim Mayor Ken Hays has put his name on a letter supporting the Wild Olympics legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks.
City councilors Laura Dubois and Candace Pratt also signed on the dotted line.
The proposed law has long been controversial, with “Working Forests = Working Families” signs popping up across the region in opposition to the “draft proposal” released by Murray and Dicks in November 2011.
The proposed law was then extensively revised, including the removal of its most controversial section, a “willing-buyer, willing-seller” agreement that would have given Olympic National Park authority to purchase up to 20,000 acres of peninsula land, with the purchased lands designated as a preserve.
Murray said, “After consulting with the timber industry, we decided to alter the original proposal by eliminating national park expansion and carefully drawing the wilderness boundaries to exclude potentially harvestable timber.”
He added, “I think there are some special interests that don’t want to see any net loss of land, but if you read it carefully I don’t think that’s a big issue.”
Pratt was quick to note that she signed the letter as an individual and not as a councilor. “The city council hasn’t taken any position officially.”
She added that while she supports the bill, she doesn’t believe it will become law anytime soon: “It’s still in committee and Congress isn’t doing anything right now. I think it’s probably dead.”
The letter, addressed to Murray and Dicks, was penned by the Wild Olympics Campaign. It states in part, “Our ancient forests, rivers and streams offer priceless natural amenities that make the Northwest such a wonderful place to live … provide clean water, scenic beauty, solitude, fish and wildlife habitat, world-class outdoor recreation opportunities and an unrivaled quality of life for our region.”
The letter also takes on the issue of potential harm to the local economy, saying, “Your proposal would help protect the economic future for the Olympic Peninsula …. Our streams and waterways support a vibrant fishing and shellfish industry, attract millions of dollars in tourism annually, and provide clean drinking water to our residents.”
The letter states that the revised proposal struck a balance by “… preserving and enhancing existing recreational access and mitigating potential impacts to the available timber base and related jobs.”
“This balance is the result of consulting local stakeholders early and often over the past three years, including federal and state land management agencies, timber companies, tribes, local elected officials and opinion leaders, hunters and anglers, mountain bikers and others user groups.
“Equally important has been your willingness and resolve to make changes to the proposal based on that feedback.”
Clallam County commissioners Mike Doherty and Mike Chapman previously had expressed their support for the bill.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.