Legislation Would Add Official Wilderness To Olympic National Park, Transfer Acreage to Quileute Tribe

Olympic National Park would gain more official wilderness, and the Quileute Tribe would gain protection from tsunamis and floods under legislation introduced into Congress. NPS maps.

Olympic National Park would see a net gain in official wilderness and the Quileute Tribe would gain 785 acres from the park under a proposal recently introduced to Congress.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, the legislation would seal a deal that has long been discussed with the tribe to provide it with a buffer for protection from tsunamis and floods. According to the two politicians, most of the Quileute Reservation village of La Push "is located within the coastal flood plain, with the tribe’s administrative buildings, school, elder center, and housing all located in a tsunami zone."

"For many decades, the tribe and the park have had a dispute over the reservation boundaries along the Quillayute River," the legislation reads. "In recent years, this dispute has intensified as the tribe has faced an urgent need for additional lands for housing, schools, and other tribe purposes outside the tsunami and Quillayute River flood zones. ... the lack of a settlement of this dispute threatens to adversely impact the public’s existing and future recreational use of several attractions in the park that are accessed by the public’s use of reservation lands."

Along with authorizing the transfer of 785 acres near La Push to the tribe, the legislation would designate 15 acres of the Boulder Creek Trail and campground as wilderness, and designate about 4,100 acres north of Lake Crescent as wilderness, according to the Friends of Olympic National Park.

While the 785 acres designated for transfer to the tribe includes more than 200 acres now designated as wilderness in the park, that loss would be offset by the wilderness additions north of Lake Crescent and along the Boulder Creek Trail.

Comments

Seems like a gift of 785 acres to the tribe. The land on the north side of Lake Croissant is already national park (non-wilderness). And it has lovely views of all the clearcuts to the north when you hike up to the ridge crest. Boulder Creek cmpgrnd is also already NP.

It seems implied that there is a swap, that the tribe is giving up something in exchange for 785 acres. But what?

This is a crime! I have been to this area many times and I am aghast as to what I see. The reservation is in deplorable shape with abandoned vehicles and trash everywhere.

I understand their needs and I agree that something should be done, however past actions are a strong indicator of what will happen.

If tsunami risk is the issue, why is this any different than our whole coastline? Better spent efforts would be addressing alert systems and education as to proper evacuation routes.

Perhaps Cantwell and Dicks should try to clean up these areas first. Then come back for alert systems and education programs.

The park gives up land to people who will not take care of it in exchange for the ability to rename existing park lands and forest? I don’t get it!

First off, the tribe isn't giving anything up; the park service is giving something up AND getting something in return in the form of wilderness designation by congress. Who says the tribe has to give anything up for it to be a good deal for NPS?

Second, regarding the comment concerning the condition of the tribe's land -- this is pathetic and bordering on somewhat racist. The condition of the tribe's land is due in large part to one thing -- poverty. And it's this country's deplorable history of treatment of American Indians that is largely to blame for that poverty, like it or not. I think one of the best ways for congress to assist the tribe in addressing the conditions on their reservation is to give them land on higher ground so that every year or two during spring runoff, a large portion of the reservation doesn't flood. It's amazing how difficult it is to have a "nice" looking reservation when it floods every couple of years.

Finally,we would all be missing a fundamental point if we failed to acknowledge that long before this land belonged to NPS, it belonged to the tribe. Returning 750 acres back to tribe so they don't have to deal with regular flooding (or worse a tsunami) in exchange for a few thousand acres of wilderness designation doesn't seem unreasonable.

Poverty. That is what shoves the natural beauty out of your consciousness when you visit this area, as I have. The Quileute nation, along with their near neighbors the Hoh, live in terrible poverty and have all the attendant social ails that go with poverty. Anything that will help this human pain is worth redesignating arbitrary borders and labels. I don't see the NPS losing a thing here.

1) La Push does not flood during Quillayute River flood events. However, if a major subduction zone earthquake occurs (and it will, someday), a tsunami may arrive within 10 to 15 minutes, too short a time for complete evacuation.
2) Olympic Park Associates did support the NPS' long-standing offer of 274 acres, not the 785 acres, including 222 acres of designated Wilderness for housing development, in the current bill. OPA has written Rep. Dicks, sponsor of the House bill, "the scale of the proposed Quileute transfer is far more than OPA - or any other conservation organization - can support... A transfer of national park lands of this size requires public review. We request an environmental assessment or 'Subject EA' be completed prior to legislation." See page 6 http://rdpayne.drizzlehosting.com/opa-news-v18n2.pdf
3) Parts of La Push do appear impoverished, but the new tribal center, medical center and housing subdivision near the Second Beach trailhead are as nice as the average suburban neighborhood. Realize only 350 tribal members reside there and "The tribe receives $8 million annually in federal grants and $2.5 million from the sale of its slot-machine permits to other tribes." according to the Seattle Times http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003162596_washland30.html
In addition, the tribe sells its treaty salmon and groundfish rights to commercial fleets which gill net and trawl them, runs its own $2.5 million/year packing plant, a fish hatchery and resort, and charges hefty lease for the Coast Guard station. With a tribal income of over $100,000 per resident household, it is not our place to question how a sovereign nation distributes its income. We Americans have our own income disparities and citizens who make poor personal decisions, too.
These are questions without clear right/wrong answers. But it is in everyone's interest to resolve this long-standing dispute, and this appears to be the only mutually acceptable resolution.