ABERDEEN, Wash. - A bill a decade in the making to protect parts of the Olympic National Forest passed out of committee in Congress yesterday.
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act would permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of the forest as wilderness, and 19 rivers and their tributaries as wild and scenic - the first river protections of its kind on the Olympic Peninsula.
Roy Nott, president of LD Nott Company in Aberdeen and a former timber executive, is a long-time supporter of the bill. He says the region's natural beauty would help the local economy, which is changing.
"What's more important than a few additional trees - that are irreplaceable - is the workforce," says Nott. "It's the ability to attract new people to this area, and the skills of those people in really creating the next generation of businesses for the Olympic Peninsula."
The measure received a full committee markup in the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. It's designed so that it won't impact any timber jobs on the peninsula.
Nott grew up on the Olympic Peninsula and lived in the south and northeastern U.S. before being drawn back to the region.
"It's just so incredible to be able to go to a place like Ruby Beach in the morning and then, go up to Queets Valley or up the Hoh Valley and all the way up to the trails, the rivers," says Nott. "It's an incredible place."
More than 12,000 local residents have signed a petition in support of the legislation. It's also gained endorsements from 800 local tribes, businesses and mayors of towns such as Aberdeen, Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.