A 'Straight Arrow' Politician Honored for What He Did Outdoors
He was nicknamed "Straight Arrow" years ago as Washington's Governor, but Dan Evans had a penchant for wild places. Evans was a key player -- often THE key player -- in protecting millions of acres of the public domain.
"The thing I like most about Washington public lands is visiting them," Evans once said. As a late middle-aged U.S. Senator, he delighted in leading young aides on multi-day backpack trips deep into the Olympics.
Evans was renowned for doing grunt work in camp, even taking up the portable latrine when it was time to get back on the trail.
The legacy is enough to stir a rare act of bipartisanship in Washington's congressional delegation, which worked in harmony when Evans was a part of it.
The lawmakers have set out to name 877,000 acres of Olympic National Park as the "Daniel J. Evans Wilderness."
Unlike today's Teddy Roosevelt-in-Reverse Republicans, Evans was an enthusiastic advocate of parks and wilderness.
He is to this day as co-founder (with Democrat Mike Lowry) of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. Evans celebrated rebuilt knees in his 80's by hiking up to and skinny dipping in a remote tarn of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
In 1988, with Sen. Brock Adams, he masterminded the Washington Parks Wilderness Act. It was, in Evans' words, the "first attempt to designate wilderness in national parks on a statewide basis."
The law put 1.7 million acres of Washington's three national parks under protection of the Wilderness Act. The act attached a new level of protection to more than 90 percent of Olympic National Park.
As well, Evans was a key architect of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Bill, which protected more than 1 million acres of the Evergreen State. It created a wilderness in eastern Snohomish County named for the late Sen. Henry Jackson.
'Doesn't stop there. Congress had fashioned a 393,000 Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area back in days when Evans was Governor. But U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz wanted President Ford to veto the bill.
Evans went to the Oval Office, armed with a picture book and the story of taking his three boys up over 7,778-foot Aasgard Pass into the Enchantment Lakes, in the teeth of a vicious storm.
Ford signed the bill.
No wonder U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who never met a wilderness she did like, recently tweeted: "Dan Evans fought to preserve the #WA wilderness for future generations."
A bipartisan quintet of former U.S. House members who worked on the 1984 and 1988 laws -- Lowry, and ex-U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks, Don Bonker, Al Swift and John Miller -- have urged Congress to give Evans the honor.
They owe Evans.
A self-described "great indoorsman," Swift was nudged into wilderness protection by Evans. He hiked into a spectacular waterfall on the Boulder River (after asking "Do you have a sedan chair?") and created a beautiful low-to-high wilderness in the Cascade Front Range.
Dicks was instrumental in protecting a great cedar forest on Long Island in Willapa Bay, and ancient forests of the Clearwater and Greenwater Rivers near Mt. Rainier. Bonker helped put legendary Shi-Shi Beach into Olympic Park. Miller was the state's last Republican congressman to win a Sierra Club endorsement.
The Washington congressional delegation of the 1970's and 1980's conspired to do good deeds, and has left a great natural legacy.
The delegation could unite again behind, say, the Wild Olympics proposal by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., to protect lands and rivers on the periphery of the national park.
Honoring Evans might awaken it to good deeds in need of doing.