Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) hosted Representatives Betty McCollum (MN-04) and Dave Joyce (OH-14), the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, for a multi-day visit across the region.
The Interior Subcommittee has jurisdiction over federal funding for key agencies that impact the region including the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Indian Health Service, and the Forest Service, among others.
“A critical part of my job is to elevate the issues important to our region – so it was an honor and privilege to host the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of a subcommittee that holds the levers of funding for so many important federal agencies and projects that impact our area,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Our region faces some unique opportunities and challenges, and it’s really valuable to my colleagues to see that up close and personally. From highlighting tribal communities moving to higher ground because of the threat of climate change, to the work being done to restore Puget Sound – I’m grateful that Chairwoman McCollum and Ranking Member Joyce took the time to visit our neck of the woods and hear from local community leaders, small business owners, tribes, and environmental advocates.”
“It was wonderful visiting beautiful Washington state, and I thank Representative Kilmer for his hospitality in hosting me and our Republican Ranking Member Rep. Joyce,” said Chairwoman McCollum. “Washington’s national parks, federal lands, and tribal communities are all directly impacted by congressionally-appropriated funding under our jurisdiction, so this trip gave us a good opportunity to understand the impact of our work on a regional and local level. As appropriators, Mr. Kilmer and I share a deep commitment to environmental protection, investing in Indian Country, and ensuring our national parks and forests are effectively managed – both for today and for future generations of Americans to enjoy. Thanks to Mr. Kilmer for an informative and inspiring trip experiencing Washington’s majestic landscapes.”
“Both Chairwoman McCollum and I are grateful to Representative Kilmer for inviting us to see first-hand how our work in DC is having a positive impact on the local and regional level in Washington State,” said Ranking Member Dave Joyce. “Having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, I know how important it is to ensure we protect and preserve our environmental treasures so they can be enjoyed for many generations to come.”
“We have an urgent need to recover Puget Sound. The orca and salmon depend on us to take action now,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director, Puget Sound Partnership. “The federal government must be an active partner in this effort. Despite the proposed elimination of funding in the President’s budget, we remain hopeful that Congress will step up. That’s why we’re grateful that Rep. Kilmer has been such a strong advocate, and brought his colleagues from the Appropriations Committee to see the opportunities and challenges here and how they connect to similar ecosystems in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake.”
“We are greatly appreciative of the Chair and Ranking Member taking the time to learn about tribal issues and the importance of our natural resources,” said Justin Parker, Executive Director of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The work of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee is an incredibly important part of the federal government’s trust responsibility to the tribes. We’re grateful for the appropriators making the effort to learn about the wide variety of issues facing the protection and restoration of Puget Sound and tribal treaty reserved-rights.”
“Due to our location on the shoreline of Washington, The Quinault Indian Nation is on the front lines of the global warming crisis,” said Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation. “Because of the increasing threat of rising sea levels, tsunamis and flooding due to climate change, we are being forced to relocate the town of Taholah to higher ground. We will need the engagement and assistance of our trustee, the federal government, to complete this relocation effort. We would like to thank Mr. Kilmer for inviting his colleagues to the Quinualt Nation to build the government-to-government relationship and witness first-hand the challenges we are facing.”
“The Olympic Forest Collaborative is making positive progress. But we have a long way to go,” said Matt Comisky, Washington Manager for the American Forest Resource Council and Co-Chair of the Olympic Forest Collaborative. “Assuring the Forest Service has the funding and flexibility to work with the Collaborative, as well as completing their own scope of work, can be a difference-maker in continuing our progress. We were pleased that the leaders of the Appropriations Committee got an up-close and personal look at the work we are doing – and at how they can help.”
“The Elwha Dam removal is an amazing success story,” said Frances G. Charles, Tribal Chairwoman, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. “Now we’re working to make sure that our tribe and that the City of Port Angeles receive the funding needed to fulfill the federal government’s promise here. That’s why this visit from the appropriators mattered.”
The multi-day trip included visits to highlight regional challenges and opportunities, including:
Climate Impacts on Tribal Communities
The members of the congressional delegation traveled to Tahola to meet with four coastal tribes to discuss the impact of climate change and the threat of tsunamis on tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest. In recent years, the tribes have faced persistent flooding challenges and resource constraints in addressing those challenges. To address this, in this year’s House appropriations bill, Rep. Kilmer advocated for – and secured – increased funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program, coastal zone management grants, and pre-disaster mitigation funding. The members of the delegation discussed the resources and funding priorities needed to help coastal tribal communities build resilient coasts and move to higher ground, as well as the work the federal government could do to meet the federal government trust and treaty obligations.
The Importance of Collaborative Forest Management
The congressional delegation also met with members of the Olympic Forest Collaborative to discuss the importance of forest collaboratives to the environment and to local economies. Forest collaboratives are consortia of citizens from the timber industry, the conservation community, and other local leaders that work collaboratively to increase timber harvests while also maximizing other forest benefits, like habitat and water quality improvements, and stream restoration. The group discussed providing additional incentives to the Forest Service to provide more support for this value-added collaboration. In this year’s House appropriations bill, Kilmer included language highlighting the value of collaborative forest management and directing the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize resources to better leverage support from existing forest collaboratives to expedite project development and approval of forest treatments. The bill also included additional funding for collaborative restoration projects and direction for the Forest Service to pursue projects in wet forests like those on the Olympic Peninsula.
The delegation also met with the U.S. Forest Service to discuss some of the systemic staffing and resources challenges facing the Forest Service, and how the Appropriations Committee can ensure that the Forest Service has the resources necessary to fulfill its obligations.
The Need to Address the Maintenance Backlog at Olympic National Park
At Olympic National Park (ONP), the congressional delegation met with Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum and ONP staff to discuss maintenance backlog challenges and how those maintenance issues affect the visitor experience. The members discussed the need to authorize mandatory, dedicated funding to address this backlog, including the need to pass the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, legislation championed by Rep. Kilmer.
The group also visited the site of the Elwha Dam removal and river restoration project. There, they visited with Chairwoman Frances Charles and members of the Lower Elwha Tribe who discussed the importance of the project to their tribe and to ecosystem recovery. This year’s appropriations bill in the House included additional funding for project completion and to enable the tribe to acquire some of the project land.
Ongoing Efforts to Protect Salmon and Restore Puget Sound
The congressional delegation then traveled to Sequim to meet with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe where they discussed tribal treaty rights related to fish and wildlife. This year’s appropriations bill included additional funding for conservation and management of fish and wildlife co-management programs.
Then the group traveled to Quilcene, Hood Canal, and the Duckabush River to learn more about the ongoing efforts to restore Puget Sound. These visits highlighted the critical role that the Puget Sound Geographic Program (funded in the Interior and Environment Subcommittee) plays in supporting coordinated recovery efforts led by the state/local, federal, and tribal co-managers. While the President’s proposed budget called for the elimination of federal funding for Puget Sound recovery, the House appropriations bill increased funding by 18%. State, local, federal, tribal, and nonprofit leaders laid out the unique challenges to achieving recovery goals and explained why restoring federal funding levels are critical to achieving those goals.