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Friday, November 2, 2012

What the Wild Olympics Proposal Means to Me


The Wild Olympics Campaign recently released a short video highlighting all of the benefits that the Wild Olympics proposal will provide to the wild lands, waters, and people of Washington State. As Washington Wild’s Conservation Intern, and one of the newest supporters of the Wild Olympics campaign, I found this video to be informative and enlightening, and I wanted to share it with all of you. The video does a great job of dealing with the many aspects of this proposal, which would protect areas within the Olympic National Forest and involves a diverse array of stakeholders.

Watch the Wild Olympics for Our Future Video
Because of the complex nature of a Wilderness proposal like Wild Olympics, it can be hard to wrap your head around just what the proposal will mean to nearby communities. The video treats the viewer to footage and a series of still photographs showing the great natural beauty of the Olympic Peninsula at its finest. Even as a lifelong Washington resident, I was still blown away by some of the scenic vistas that the Peninsula has to offer. In addition to providing some of the best hiking and wilderness solitude that the state has to offer, the Wild Olympics proposal protects some of our most beloved hunting and fishing opportunities. A Wilderness designation is crucial to preserving the elk and deer populations that have drawn hunters to the region for decades, as well as the native salmon and trout runs that make the rivers of the Peninsula a popular destination for anglers. Also, any Peninsula resident who enjoys clean drinking water will continue to do so with the passage of the Wild Olympics proposal.

In addition to ensuring Wilderness protections for the forests of the Peninsula, the Wild Olympics proposal promises Wild and Scenic River designations for the rivers. Three summers ago, I had the pleasure of interning with Oregon Wild, a group that does very similar work to Washington Wild but on federal lands located in Oregon. While I was at Oregon Wild, I saw that Oregon is leading the way with Wild and Scenic River protections. Our neighbors to the south currently have approximately ten times the number, and mileage, of Wild and Scenic Rivers that we do here in Washington. Where Oregon has more than 50 W&S Rivers we have only 6, and while Oregon has more than 1,900 miles rivers designated, Washington only has about 197 miles. Fortunately, this is beginning to change, and the passage of the Wild Olympics proposal is an important step in this process. The proposal will grant Wild and Scenic River designation to 19 rivers on the Olympic Peninsula

But the Wild Olympics proposal isn’t just for traditional conservationists. The video points out that the proposal has won support from many unconventional conservation voices, such as those featured on Washington Wild’s website. I was pleasantly surprised to see that shellfish farms and timber industry members alike have recognized the benefits of keeping the Olympic Peninsula wild. The Wild Olympics website features testimonials from many prominent members of Peninsula communities. 

So, after watching the video, it was clear to me that this proposal has something in it for everyone. For me, keeping rivers like the Hama Hama, Dosewallips, and Duckabush clean, cold and silt-free holds a special importance. As an avid SCUBA diver, I know that having healthy rivers flowing into Hood Canal helps to sustain the vibrant intertidal communities that make the Hood Canal one of the best SCUBA destinations in the Northwest. 

What does the Wild Olympics proposal mean to you? Watch the video and let us know! 

To learn more about the Wild Olympics campaign and to sign the petition, visit www.wildolympics.org.

Kiki Contreras is Washington Wild's new Conservation and Outreach Intern. She has recently completed her Bachelor of Science from Duke University where she majored in Biology with a concentration in Ecology. She enjoys working with kids and scuba diving in her spare time. 

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