Wild Olympics

A brief history of events preceding the 2012 Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (HR 5995/S3329)*

The current debate surrounding HR 5995/S 3329 is the most recent skirmish in a war that started with the 1878 Timber and Stone Act. That act opened up Olympic Peninsula timberlands to the privatization and exploitation that was a mainstay fo economic development in Washington State. Following is a brief summary of the inexorable policy changes that have incrementally and continuously reduced the Working Forests and associated economic vitality on the Olympic Peninsula.

1897: President Grover Cleveland proclamation of the 2,188,800 acre Olympic Forest Reserve.

1900/01: President William McKinley reduced the Reserve by 721,390 acres.

1907: President Theodore Roosevelt, by attachment to and appropriate bill, added 127,680 acres to the Reserve.

1909: President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed 600,000 acres of the Reserve as the Mount Olympus National Monument.

1915: President Woodrow Wilson, by proclamation reduced the Mount Olympus National Monument.

1916: National Park Service Act.

1929: Forest Service Forest Recreation Plan.

1939: President Franklin Roosevelt substantially expanded the Mount Olympus Monument and proclaimed it the Olympic National Park from US Forest Service lands.

1940, 1943 & 1953: Presidential additions to the Olympic National Park from US Forest Service lands.

1976: Governor Dan Evans precipitated the Omnibus Park bill added the coastal strip from Lake Ozette to Klaloch.

1986: Congress added Lake Ozette and offshore islands to the Olympic National Park.

1991: Spotted Owl listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and federal injunction stopping timber harvest on most Pacific Northwest National Forests.

1994: President William Clinton adopts the Northwest Forest Plan reserving virtually all of the Olympic National Forest for habitat or habitat restoration.

2005: Olympic National Park General Management Plan proposing several options for park expansion onto Forest Service, State Trust Lands and private lands.

2008: Record of Decision adopting a reduced Olympic National Park General Management Plan alternative to provide for expansion onto private lands.

2009: Coalition of the Pew Campaign for American Wilderness, Sierra Club, Olympic Forest Coalition, the Olympic Chapter of the Audubon Society, et al, starts the "Wild Olympics Campaign" (WOC).

After several months of covert selective contacts to gain support for wilderness expansion the WOC released their first proposal to the public. In addition to proposing 145,000 acres of US Forest Service lands as wilderness, 37,000 acres of private and state trust lands were included under a "willing buyer/willing seller" arrangement. Additionally, many of the proposed wilderness areas had road systems and were second growth stands that regenerated after timber harvest.

Numerous letters and declarations of opposition from local governments, grass-roots groups and individuals were written and published. Several competing economic impact studies were also commissioned.

As public debate increased, representatives for Senator Murray and Congressman Dicks "took control" and, after a series of meetings with proponents and opponents, presented the current legislation. Private and state lands were dropped and some of the previously roaded and harvested stands were put on hold pending Forest Service decisions on road decommissioning.

Numerous letters and declarations of opposition to this "compromise" legislation are now being written and published.

The North Olympic Timber Action Committee, publisher of this website, has been involved in the federal harvest debate on the Olympic Peninsula since the 1991 threatened listing of the Spotted Owl. Starting with the WOC proposal NOTAC has consistently promoted an alternative that includes most of the wilderness and wild and scenic river proposals in HR 5995 and S3229 but with the addition of the legislatively delineated "Working Forests" that were lost in the Northwest Forest Plan.

NOTAC Proposal Maps of North Olympic Forests:

*Data from "The Olympic Battleground - The Power and Politics of Timber Preservation" by Carsten Lien, 1991.