The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which would protect more than 126,000 acres of the Olympic National Forest as wilderness and designate approximately 465 miles of rivers as wild and scenic. The bill would also protect critical salmon habitat and sources of clean water.
The March 24, The Daily World reported that the Grays Harbor County Commissioners unanimously voted to oppose Wild Olympics which still needs to pass the U.S. Senate. While I was disappointed in the commissioners’ vote, it was not surprising since the commission has taken such a hard right stance these past several years.
Wild Olympics will save more of our old growth trees, 95% of which have already been cut down with little left for future generations. It obviously takes many hundreds of years for old growth forests to be created, yet it takes only weeks to destroy them. Surely it is a good thing to protect these valuable trees. They create indispensable habitat for birds and other wildlife, provide recreational opportunities for humans and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Probably the most perplexing part of the commissioners’ statement is the suggestion that dams might somehow be appropriate on these rivers. Two dams on the Elwha River once blocked salmon spawning grounds. Now that they have been removed, salmon recovery is beginning to occur. Why would our commissioners want to move backward?
The commissioners apparently think of value only in terms of dollars and how much can be extracted from our public lands. They should consider the intrinsic value of these natural resources that are worth far more as a vibrant ecological system than whatever profits may be gained by its exploitation and destruction.