American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) President Travis Joseph had the following to say regarding today’s U.S. House passage of the “Wild Olympics” legislation included in HR 2546:
“AFRC represents Washington forest products manufacturers, family-owned logging companies and the thousands of workers they employ on the Olympic Peninsula. For years, we have provided substantial feedback and specific recommendations to minimize the impact of the Wild Olympics proposal to local businesses, forest health, and rural communities – including public safety risks created by wildfire. While marginal changes have been made to the Wild Olympics legislation, most of our industry’s concerns have not been addressed.
“Wild Olympics proponents have made false claims that this wilderness bill is non-controversial and does not impact working forests. By definition, wilderness explicitly bans – forever – science-based active forest management that can help achieve important conservation goals. It also bans certain forms of access and activities the public enjoys, like riding a mountain bike. In our view, putting arbitrary lines around a dynamic, at-risk ecosystem and prohibiting any and all forms of responsible, sustainable management won’t deliver the restoration, resiliency, and true conservation Washingtonians expect and deserve. The designations also come with costly new procedural requirements for the staff of the Olympic National Forest, only further reducing their ability to address a growing maintenance backlog and plan actual on-the-ground projects.
“We hope the Washington Delegation will soon prioritize the federal forest health crisis threatening rural communities and local businesses across the state. A good place to start would be the Olympic National Forest, which only achieved 17 percent of its timber harvest target last year – the lowest in the Pacific Northwest. Our industry will continue to make strategic investments where they can count on a predictable, sustainable supply of timber. In the future, we hope those investments can be made on the Olympic Peninsula.”