Two high-profile elected officials are on the Olympic Peninsula Thursday, trying to sell locals on a plan to designate more wilderness there. Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks say their latest bill is a grand compromise, and they’re hoping to convince Olympic Peninsula communities that fought earlier versions.
The plan would block logging and road-building on about 130,000 acres of Olympic National Forest. It would also preserve 19 rivers. That’s scaled back significantly from earlier proposals that would have locked up more land and allowed the National Park to grow. Congressman Dicks says those changes should calm fears.
Dicks: “We’ve trued to make this only benefit the area, not do any harm. And we’ll also help protect jobs. So I think we’ve made this much more acceptable to people on the Olympic Peninsula.”
The plan now prioritizes sensitive areas and waterways, particularly those that affect the nearby shellfish industry.
Whether they’re turned around public opinion over nearly three years of negotiations remains to be seen. The Peninsula still teems with signs charging a “land grab.”
Carol Johnson of the North Olympic Timber Action Committee says logging interests feel that they still haven’t been truly heard.
Johnson: “We’re opposing it because we think that’s the only way, if we put up enough opposition, that perhaps they’ll come back and actually sit down and renegotiate.”
The Aberdeen and Cosmopolis city councils and Grays Harbor County commissioners have passed resolutions opposing the Wild Olympics campaign.
Copyright 2012 KPLU