33¢ Pacific Coast Rain Forest
Set of 10
Issue Date: March 29, 2000
City: Seattle, WA
Printed by: Banknote Corporation of America
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 11.25 x 11.5
The Pacific coast rain forest is an area of pristine wilderness protected by the National Park Service. It lies on the Olympic peninsula of Washington state in the valleys of the Quinault, Queets, and Hoh rivers.
Between 140 and 167 inches (12 to 14 feet) of rain falls in this area each year. The temperature rarely drops below freezing during winter, and summertime highs are usually 80 degrees. The Olympic Mountains to the east protect the rain forest from severe weather.
Nearly every bit of space in the Pacific rain forest is inhabited by flora and fauna. Towering Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees, which can grow to 300 feet in height and 23 feet in circumference, dominate the landscape. Douglas fir, western red cedar, big leaf maple, red alder, vine maple, and black cottonwood trees can also be found in the forest. Mosses, lichens, and ferns are plentiful in the Pacific rain forest as well.
The rain forest is one of three distinct ecosystems of Olympic National Park. Glacier-capped mountains and over 60 miles of wild Pacific coast comprise the rest of this biologically diverse park. A distinct array of plants and animals developed on the Olympic Peninsula because of its isolated location near glacial ice, the waters of Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Wilderness Act
On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act. The act protected 9 million acres from development and created the National Wilderness Preservation System that consists of more than 111 million acres today.
There has long been a debate over the protection of wilderness areas. Wilderness is defined as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Some believed that it was important to protect these areas; that they are necessary to balance out industrial expansion. Those that oppose it argued that it was senseless to lock away the valuable resources that these lands held.
The fight reached a high in the 1950s when the federal government proposed building the Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument. Several environmental groups including the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club opposed the development, arguing that the land should be protected to preserve its natural resources. By 1955, the government decided to abandon the project.
Among those who participated in the fight was Howard Zahniser, an officer in the Wilderness Society. After their victory, he proposed that they take further steps to protect more lands, by introducing legislation. He composed the first draft of his Wilderness Act in 1956. It would place all wildlands and unspoiled areas (without roads or accommodations) into a wilderness system. This system would protect those lands from development and set up a system to add in lands from national parks, monuments, and other federally protected lands.
That same year, Hubert H. Humphrey and John Saylor submitted Zahniser’s bill. It faced significant opposition, particularly from people involved in the western mining, grazing, and timber industries. Over the next eight years, the bill was rewritten 66 times. Finally, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson openly expressed his support for the bill, which led to several compromises that helped it to pass Congress. President Johnson then signed it into law on September 3, 1964.
The final Wilderness Act set aside far less land than Zahniser had originally imagined, some exceptions were made for usage, and Congress had to pass an act to add more land to the Wilderness System. While they had scored a major victory in getting the bill passed, some environmentalists were disappointed at the number of compromises that had been made.
Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System consists of over 800 designated wilderness areas, consisting of over 111 million acres. The National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the US Fish, and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management manage these lands.
Click here to read the Wilderness Act and here to visit the Wilderness Society’s website.