Rep. Kilmer meets timber officials to devise plan

The Daily World (Aberdeen)March 24, 2013 

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Congressman Derek Kilmer said he’s meeting with timber industry officials and other interest groups in hopes of coming up with a plan to boost production in Olympic National Forest.

“I don’t have a grand plan to unveil quite yet,” Kilmer said after making numerous stops around Grays Harbor last week.

He acknowledged that there’s been great interest on the Olympic Peninsula to do more thinning and logging projects in the national forest.

It’s been a decades-long complaint that the U.S. Forest Service has never met the logging goals set forth in the Northwest Forest Plan, despite an increased demand for timber.

Grays Harbor County Commissioner Frank Gordon said that he’s especially encouraged that Kilmer wants to do more to help in the forests around the Amanda Park area, which saw huge blowdown during the past few wind storms and yet is located in a roadless area where logging is not possible.

“Congressman Kilmer understands that all of this talk about the Wild Olympics and more wilderness areas needs to happen at the same time that we talk about increasing production in our forests,” Gordon said.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said she will re-introduce legislation this year that would expand wilderness designations and put areas around Olympic National Park off limits to logging. It’s a proposal she first introduced with then-Congressman Norm Dicks last June after environmental groups known as the Wild Olympics Campaign spent several years working on the plan. Kilmer has not yet signed on to the plan.

Kilmer visited Aberdeen’s Expo Grays Harbor, an event put on by Greater Grays Harbor Inc., which attracted all sorts of businesses and community members, and he conducted a round table discussion at the Aberdeen Sea Mar clinic. The trip follows a stop Kilmer made in Aberdeen last month for a round table with small-business leaders.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know your business community,” Kilmer said. “I like talking to local employers. Part of my focus is trying to figure out how we help small businesses and get things going again. I did a lot of listening, actually. … There are no silver bullets to fixing the economy and helping them, but we learned about a lot of little things. Everything from work force issues and making sure we can find good, skilled workers, to a lot of interest in seeing growth of opportunity at the port and tremendous enthusiasm to seeing how we grow opportunities because exports are sure growing. There’s been talk of tax reform and helping small businesses have a better, more level playing field.”

Kilmer said he is concerned about the recent curtailing of operations at Harbor Paper in Hoquiam. Last month, the paper mill abruptly closed down as it replaced its top manager John Begley with the son of the paper mill’s owner.

Kilmer met with owner Cesar Scolari earlier this year and said he’s made his office available to help Scolari however he needs it. There’s been a lot of talk of helping the county out with a New Market Tax Credit.

“We’re trying to maintain the lines of communication to make sure we can be helpful,” Kilmer said. “I want to make sure for every employer, big or small, we’re doing what we can to be helpful.”

One stop that got Kilmer especially excited was the Sucher & Sons Star Wars Store in Aberdeen.

Kilmer says he’s an avid Star Wars fan, and he and his deputy district director perused the store and talked with store owner Don Sucher.

“Let’s just say that I did not leave empty-handed,” Kilmer said. “And, I will be back.”

He finished his tour of the area at the 88th Annual Pacific County Democrats’ Crab Feed in South Bend, where he told fellow Democrats that he was sharing an apartment in Washington, D.C., with fellow congressional freshman Denny Heck of the new 10th Congressional District, which includes Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater.

“We think, if nothing else, we might write a sitcom,” Kilmer said. “For the record, I’m the neat one.”

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