U.S. Rep. Kilmer touts Wild Olympics legislation as balance between economy, ecology during gathering
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, left, meets with Port Townsend High School students Ian Hadden and Ewan Shortess, right, who are planning a cross-country train trip to raise awareness about sustainability.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The newest version of Wild Olympics legislation contributes to the balance of economy and ecology “that is in the DNA of our region,” U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer told a crowd of about 300 people during a State of the District tour.

Kilmer, a Port Angeles native and Gig Harbor Democrat whose 6th District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, spoke Tuesday at the Northwest Maritime Center.

“This is not just a slogan on the side of a bus,” he said.

“It's all about giving our kids the opportunity to enjoy the natural treasures that we have enjoyed while also understanding that we have to grow the economy.”

Kilmer was wrapping up a tour of the North Olympic Peninsula on which he conducted meetings with private groups.

The maritime center meeting was held to thank supporters of the Wild Olympics initiative.

“I resent the notion that we have to choose between protecting our environment and moving the economy forward,” Kilmer said.

“We have the ability to do both.”

He and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, introduced identical versions of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2014 in the House and Senate last Friday.

It contains measures jointly introduced in 2012 by Murray and former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, Kilmer's 6th Congressional District predecessor, such as banning logging on 126,554 acres of 633,000-acre Olympic National Forest.

It also contains revisions from the original, Kilmer said: Wilderness designations will not lead to more road closures or affect private property rights, wilderness can't be expanded administratively by the Forest Service and the Forest Service's ability to fight forest fires and insect infestations is not diminished.

Kilmer, who called the bill “the right thing to do,” said he is convinced that nearly all land proposed for wilderness would never be commercially harvested and that the designations won't harm the timber industry.

The bill was hailed by Wild Olympics Campaign Chairwoman Connie Gallant of Quilcene, who said it would “benefit everyone,” and blasted for cutting harvestable timberland by the American Forest Resource Council of Portland, Ore., which represents Olympic Peninsula foresters.

Wild Olympics legislation is part of a broadly based “Olympic Peninsula Economic Development Initiative,” Kilmer has said.

Kilmer asked constituents not to be discouraged by congressional “dysfunction.”

“We saw 53 bills passed this year, which is an historic low,” he said.

“It's easy to look at Washington, D.C., from 3,000 miles away and get a little discouraged by the dysfunction, but my invitation to you is to not get discouraged but to become motivated to get involved.”

Among constituents Kilmer talked with after the meeting were Port Townsend High School students Ewan Shortess and Ian Hadden, who talked about their organization, the Students for Sustainability, and their plans to travel by train to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the topic.

In Port Townsend, Kilmer also visited Port Townsend Paper Corp. and the Port Townsend Senior Center, and walked down Water Street to talk with business owners.

Kilmer plans no more meetings in Clallam or Jefferson counties before he returns to Washington, D.C., on Monday, Kilmer spokesman Stephen Carter said.

Kilmer is scheduled to address the Clallam County Economic Development Council annual dinner at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St. in Port Angeles.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.



Reporters Paul Gottlieb and Rob Ollikainen contributed to this report.

Last modified: January 22. 2014 6:39PM
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