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.