Olympic Wilderness Area renamed to honor longtime legislator, three-term governor

Daniel J. Evans Wilderness area; the state’s largest wildlife area at 1,370 square miles

During daylong celebrations in the Olympic Wilderness area renamed for him, more than 200 people gathered with former U.S. senator and governor Daniel J. Evans to honor his conservation legacy Aug. 18.

“Protection of Washington’s historic, cultural and natural wonders has a long bipartisan history of success,” said Ben Greuel, Washington State Director for The Wilderness Society. “We are lucky to have a leader like senator Evans. There is no better way to honor his conservation legacy than renaming this wilderness for him.”

The area, which was officially renamed in Evans’ honor by an act of Congress in December of 2016, is the largest wilderness area in the state at 1,370 square miles of wilderness; approximately 95 percent of the Olympic National Park. The celebrations took place at Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal area.

Evans was known for his conservation efforts throughout his political career, including his leadership in passing the Washington Park Wilderness Act of 1988, designating more than 1.5 million acres in the Olympic, Mt. Rainier and North Cascades National Parks as protected wilderness. While serving three terms as governor of Washington from 1965 to 1977, he established the first state level Department of Ecology, which served as a model for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Evans has a long history of successfully safeguarding land, water, wildlife and clean air in Washington state and across the West. He was a leader in the passage of the Washington Park Wilderness Act, which designated almost 850,000 acres of wilderness in Washington state’s national forests.

“It’s no secret that among the many natural places senator Evans has helped to preserve, the Olympic Wilderness is his favorite,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians. “This is where he, his family, and many others find the revitalization so kindred to creation, and so invigorating to the soul. This is where the air refreshes the lungs, the land and waters bring sparkle to the eyes and the stars shine beyond most peoples’ imagination. This is the most appropriate place in the world to name ‘The Daniel J. Evans Wilderness.’”

“Dan Evans discovered Olympic National Park while a Boy Scout, a path followed over the years by many other Scouts, including me, who have hiked the length of the mighty Elwha River or summited Mt Olympus,” said Mike Vaska, Chair of Mainstream Republicans of Washington. “This remote wilderness inspired Dan’s conservation ethic, and a mainstream political movement he led over several decades. The wilderness that inspired his achievements to protect our cherished public lands and parks will now bear the name of that Boy Scout who became governor, serving to inspire future generations.”

“Gov. Dan Evans is an inspiration for other University of Washington students to follow,” said Kalani Tissot, President of Young Democrats of the University of Washington. “His work in environmental conservation will preserve the beauty of our state for centuries to come. We are honored to have our school of public policy under his name.”

Having just returned from three days of hiking with his nine grandchildren and three children in time for the ceremony, Evans says the thing he likes most about our public lands is visiting them. “I’m still out hiking on my artificial knees,” he said. As governor, Evans would take staffers hiking for several days every summer.

In 1956, Evans entered politics as a member of the Washington State House of Representatives, where he served from 1956–1965. He became governor of the State of Washington in 1965, ultimately serving an unprecedented three consecutive terms through 1977. He was recognized as “One of the Ten Outstanding Governors in the 20th Century” (University of Michigan study, 1981). After declining to run for office again, he assumed the presidency of Olympia’s Evergreen State College in 1977 that he had helped form during his time as governor. From 1981–1983, he also served as chairman of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council. After the death of United States Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson in 1983, Evans was appointed and then elected to the United States Senate where he served out Jackson’s term until 1989 when he chose to return to his home in Washington State.