Kilmer’s Wild Olympics stance unchanged
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Rep. Derek Kilmer meets with editors and a reporter of the Peninsula Daily News. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Derek Kilmer continued to remain noncommittal this week on planned legislation that would ban logging on more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest by declaring it wilderness and creating a protective buffer around Olympic National Park.

Supporters of what is known as Wild Olympics legislation, which also would protect 19 rivers and seven tributaries in the national forest, are unconcerned about Kilmer not staking out a position — but hope he does so by the end of the year, Quilcene resident Connie Gallant, chair of the Wild Olympics Campaign, said Wednesday.

“I’m hoping he does it a lot sooner,” Gallant said of Kilmer.

“The reason for wanting to introduce [the legislation] as soon as possible is because the quicker we begin protecting our lands and rivers, the better for our present and future generations.”

Parts of Olympic National Forest’s 633,000 acres lie in Kilmer’s district, which includes all or parts of Clallam, Jefferson, Mason and Grays Harbor counties — all of which touch Olympic National Forest.

The 6th District Democrat’s position has remained virtually unchanged from comments he made last August, when he said at a campaign forum — three months before he was elected — that “there needs to be a conversation about increasing harvest levels in federal forests to make sure there is an adequate supply for mills.”

Kilmer, born and raised in Port Angeles, reiterated his position Tuesday in a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview and conversation with Peninsula Daily News editors and a reporter.

“I think we need to do a better job of increasing harvest levels in federal forests,” Kilmer said, adding that he has not put forward any proposals to accomplish that goal.

Kilmer also said during the interview that he strongly opposes a land-border-crossing fee that the Department of Homeland Security wants to study for possible inclusion in the agency’s 2014 fiscal year budget proposal.

“It is exactly counter to our interests,” Kilmer said.

“This proposal seems entirely in the wrong direction, in contrast to the direction we’ve been taking.”

The interview a quarter of the way into Kilmer’s two-year term followed a town-hall style meeting at Peninsula College’s Little Theater.

No one there asked him about the Wild Olympics legislation, though a man stood outside the door passing out business-card-size stickers that said “Supporter Wild Olympics.”

Kilmer said he continues to talk with academics, federal forestry officials and proponents whose goal is to preserve the environment and opponents who don’t want to lose working forests.

“What I am trying to figure out is the optimal point of balancing both” sides of the issue, Kilmer said.

“I would much rather act thoughtfully than quickly.”

Gallant said the Wild Olympics Campaign is willing to give Kilmer some leeway.

“What we have done as a campaign is, we are basically giving him the time to be able to study everything and to be able to speak to all the people concerned,” she said.

“We recognize the fact that he’s coming in as a newbie.”

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and then-6th District U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks never was considered by the 2012 Congress.

Dicks, Kilmer’s predecessor, served 18 terms before retiring and supported Kilmer’s election bid.

In February, Murray announced she planned to reintroduce in the current 2013 session the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild Scenic Rivers Act.

Murray still plans to reintroduce the bill this year, Sean Coit, Murray’s press secretary, said Wednesday in an email.

Kilmer said any plan to increase harvest levels would be constrained by the U.S. Forest Service’s “very limited budget” and that he has not put forward any plan to address those levels or increase the agency’s budget.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to skin a cat.”

Kilmer also said he met two weeks ago with city of Port Angeles officials and Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum to discuss sediment issues surrounding the Elwha Water Facilities, which are being compromised by silt from the tear-down of the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams on the Elwha River.

Kilmer, 39, a Gig Harbor resident with a wife and 3- and 7-year-old daughters, has been sharing an apartment in Washington, D.C., with Democrat Denny Heck, the congressman for the state’s new 10th District, which includes portions of Thurston and Mason counties.

“I’m the neat one,” Kilmer quipped.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 29. 2013 6:02PM
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