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Senator Murray: “In order to set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula, I will keep fighting to get the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act to the President’s desk.”

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S REMARKS HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining in support of her Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The bill has already passed out of the House with bipartisan support where it was introduced by Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06). Today’s committee hearing on the bill brings Murray and Kilmer’s legislation the closest it’s ever been to becoming law since Murray first introduced the bill in 2012 with then Representative Norm Dicks.

“Wild Olympics has brought Washington state families and communities from all walks of life together to protect beautiful outdoor spaces we all love, and I’m thrilled to see the progress the bill is making in the Senate,” Senator Murray said. “I want to thank the Tribes, local residents, businesses, shellfish growers, sportsmen, faith leaders, and conservation groups—as well as Representative Kilmer—for their leadership and support in moving this bill forward. In order to set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula, preserve and bolster salmon populations, and protect the treasured natural features and resources of our state for current and future generations, I will keep fighting to get the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act to the President’s desk.”

Murray’s bill would permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, a total of 464 river miles, as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water and salmon streams as well as enhance outdoor recreation, the legislation would set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

The committee hearing was cheered by the Wild Olympics Coalition, which also today unveiled over 70 new endorsements from local Olympic Peninsula elected officials, community leaders, businesses, and advocacy organizations rallying behind the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. The new additions bring the total number of local Olympic Peninsula & Hood Canal area businesses, CEOs, elected officials, farms, faith leaders,  sportsmen, and conservation and outdoor recreation groups to more than 800 endorsers, including the Quinault, Quileute, Elwha & Jamestown S’Klallam Tribes and the mayors of Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Ocean Shores, among many others. More than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support. 

The legislation has been carefully crafted through extensive community input to ensure the proposal will have no impact on existing timber jobs. It would permanently protect critical salmon habitat and sources of clean drinking water for local communities, while also protecting and expanding world-class outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking, camping, boating, hunting and fishing without closing any roads. 

A transcript of Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared is below:

“Chairwoman Cortez-Masto, thank you for allowing me to appear before today’s committee hearing to present an important priority for Washington state.

“And I am especially pleased to see my colleague, Senator Cantwell in attendance. She is a stalwart champion for our environment and our wild places, and I thank her for all she does for Washington state and our nation.

“This year I was proud to reintroduce the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act.

“This bicameral bill would permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness, and 19 rivers and their major tributaries—a total of 464 river miles—as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

“This proposal is the product of years of collaboration with local stakeholders and a shared commitment to preserving the precious natural features and resources of our prized Olympic Peninsula.

“I encourage the Members of this committee to visit the next time you visit Washington state—see our pristine forests and rivers for yourself.

“You’ll understand why this bill matters!

“This legislation would set aside the first new wilderness on Olympic National Forest in nearly three decades, and the first-ever protected wild and scenic rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

“Our bill was designed through extensive community input from just about everyone you could think of who lives in the Olympic Peninsula, and I want to specifically acknowledge Representative Kilmer who has been a steadfast partner in this effort.

“Since I first introduced this legislation in 2012, we have built a far-ranging and broad-based coalition of nonpartisan support that encompasses more than 800 major local endorsers.

“It is almost unheard of to find this kind of overwhelming support for a bill in Congress, but in Washington state we know that we don’t have to choose between preserving our natural spaces and growing our economy. They go hand in hand.

“That’s why local Olympic Peninsula and Hood Canal area Tribes, businesses, shellfish growers, sportsmen, faith leaders, and conservation groups are all firmly behind this legislation.

“Not to belabor the point, but more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support of this legislation and about 19,000 people live in Port Angeles, which is the largest city in Clallam County, so 12,000 petitions is not insignificant.

“Washington state wants to see this bill finally passed into law—no two ways about it, we are united in support.

“As I’ve mentioned, this legislation has been carefully crafted through extensive community input to get to where we are today: This proposal will have no impact on existing timber jobs.

“And, it would permanently protect sources of clean drinking water for local communities, while also protecting and expanding world-class outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking, camping, boating, hunting, and fishing—without closing any roads.

“In particular, this bill would protect critical salmon habitat.

“This is especially important to local Tribes, and my bill expressly acknowledges the fundamental interests and expertise of all treaty Tribes in the restoration of fish habitat.

“If we want to save the salmon in the Pacific Northwest, we have to protect what habitat remains while we restore previously degraded habitat conditions.

“My Wild Olympics legislation would permanently protect some of the healthiest, intact salmon habitat left on the Peninsula, while allowing for tribes and their partners to continue important habitat restoration work.

“Saving our salmon is a critical priority for me and so many others—and if we want to get it done passing Wild Olympics is an important piece of the puzzle.

“These natural treasures—the breathtaking views and stunning scenery, are truly the heart of Olympic Peninsula—its economy, community, and heritage.

“A source of pride for our country as a whole.

“Wild Olympics has brought Washington state families and communities from all walks of life together to protect beautiful outdoor spaces we all love, and I’m thrilled to be here today to be their voice in urging we get this bill to President Biden’s desk without any further delay.

“Chairwoman Cortez-Masto, thank you again for allowing me to speak today.”

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