Today Jaime Herrera Beutler commended the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate for recently approving temporary federal protection for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Pacific County, Washington. Jaime fought for this specific protection that directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to refrain from flooding the refuge until at least April of 2012.
This protection for Willapa was part of the 2012 federal appropriation bill that was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress last week. Specifically, the bill's conference report contains language directing the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to refrain from removing the levee systems on the Lewis Point, Porter Point and Riekkola units, allowing it more time to address strong community concerns over this management alternative that would flood the refuge. The measure was approved by the House on Friday, December 16 (passed 296-121) and Senate on Saturday, December 17 (passed 67-32).
"This is good news for the folks of Southwest Washington who care about the future of this refuge," said Jaime. "It's clear that the proposal to permanently alter this valued community treasure does not have the public fully behind it. I will continue to do whatever it takes so that this permanent change doesn't move forward without the support of this community.
"I've been glad to take this issue to Congress for the folks of Pacific County, but we secured this protection because of the collaborative work of many. Senator Hatfield, Representative Blake and Representative Takko, Pacific County Commissioners Jon Kaino, Norman Cuffel, and Lisa Ayers, recreationalists, hunters, cranberry growers, and local citizens deserve credit for making their voices heard.
"I'll continue working hard so that residents of Southwest Washington are the ones who shape the future of this refuge they care so deeply about."
In early 2011, Jaime became aware that the USFWS was pursuing controversial management alternatives that would flood and permanently alter the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge -- and the Pacific County Community largely knew nothing about it.
Jaime worked with USFWS to extend the public comment period, and in March personally hosted a listening session in Ilwaco for hundreds of Pacific County residents to ask questions and express concerns. Despite the lack of local support, however, USFWS officials were readying plans to breach the dikes in preparation for their preferred management alternative.
She helped lead a bipartisan coalition of elected officials and citizens to successfully convince the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to cancel funding for the dike breach in May. The Army Corps of Engineers subsequently cancelled the permits to demolish the dikes. Yet efforts to move forward with this change to the refuge are not dead, and Jaime continues to hear from concerned citizens who want to preserve the refuge as it has been for nearly 75 years.