Saving Olympic’s Soundscape
Chileen DuRaine-Duncan, Poulsbo, Washington
Chileen, a former Navy medic, first engaged with NPCA via several joint NPCA/The Mission Continues service projects in the parks of the Northwest. After learning about this NPCA campaign — and valuing the peace and solitude of Olympic herself — Chileen took it upon herself to do more. She has lobbied in Washington, D.C., advocating passionately for the protection of Olympic’s natural sounds, and even authored a recent email appeal to our members to urge them to speak up and join her in our efforts.
Recognized as a wilderness area, an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park is also the most popular national park in the Northwest, with over 3.4 million visitors in 2017 alone. Even with this high level of visitation, the park provides uncommon refuge from noise pollution.
Whether you love the crash of the ocean surf, the bugling of Roosevelt elk or the whistling of marmots in high mountain meadows, Olympic is a peaceful, accessible place where you can actually hear the beauty of nature in all its diversity.
Yet, Olympic’s distinctive soundscape is threatened by new and unnatural noises: military jets training overhead.
As remote as the Olympic Peninsula is, it is within minutes by flight of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, which has served as a military airbase since World War II. The Navy has recently based more than 80 EA-18G Growler jets at Whidbey Island, with more planned. These aircraft, more commonly known as Growlers, create sounds loud enough to damage the hearing of people nearby. Increased fighter jet training would disturb some of Olympic’s most popular wilderness areas and trails, including the idyllic Hoh Rainforest and wild Pacific beaches.
Flying over the Olympic Peninsula is a convenience, not a necessity — so NPCA continues to do all we can to encourage the Navy to use alternate training sites and help preserve the natural sounds that make Olympic National Park such a special place.