Commission -- Time to end the Wild Olympics debate

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Daily World

Grays Harbor, WA - The Grays Harbor County commissioners each say it's time for Congressman Norm Dicks to take a stand and decide whether he will introduce legislation supporting the Wild Olympics proposal to add national forest land to "wilderness" protection status and to expand the size of the Olympic National Park.
Environmentalists are pushing for the plan and others -- timber interests, hunters and private property advocates -- are fighting hard against it.
County Commissioner Terry Willis said the Wild Olympics Campaign is "tearing this community apart."
The commissioners decided Monday morning that they were still not yet ready to officially side one way or another in the debate. But all three commissioners said they have reservations and are growing frustrated by the prolonged debate.
The conversation Monday morning was spurred by County Commissioner Herb Welch, who is an ardent opponent of the Wild Olympics Campaign. Welch wanted to know how his fellow commissioners felt about the issue.
"The federal government has no money, so why are we even talking about purchasing any kind of land?" Welch mused. "Why isn't this conversation just dead on arrival?"
Welch noted that a couple of weeks ago, the business committee for the Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce officially decided to come out against the Wild Olympics proposal after months of sitting on the fence.
Chamber of Commerce President LeRoy Tipton is now drafting a letter to Congressman Dicks to lobby against the idea.
"As representatives of our local business community, we just cannot support the Wild Olympics Campaign," Tipton said Tuesday. "We feel very strongly that this is certainly not the right time for us to set aside land for an expansion when our forest products businesses are having difficulty getting enough supply."
But both Willis and Commissioner Mike Wilson said the Wild Olympics concept is still a work-in-progress -- which is their problem in writing any kind of letter against the concept.
"It seems it has caused a lot of people to take sides in something that is just a theory," Wilson said.
"There is nothing real to have an opinion about and it's tearing this community apart," Willis added. "We have a bunch of people who are just worried sick that this is going to have a big impact on their lives. They're calling it the spotted owl debacle. They're thinking it's going to be that big and to have it hang out there in the air and be a dark cloud over everything -- it's gotten past the point where they either need to do something or make it go away."
Willis and Wilson both said they've expressed their frustrations to a legislative aide to Congressman Dicks.
"It seems to be coming though Congressman Dicks' Office," Wilson said. "In theory, he seems to be supporting this, but he hasn't taken a very firm stance on it. ... I do think there's been a lot of hyperbole on all of this."
Welch said Dicks should just squash the whole idea now.
"Somebody didn't just go and make the Olympic National Forest pristine last year," Welch noted. "It's been that way."