Senate Bill Introduced to Rename Wildlife Refuge After Billy Frank Jr.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) has joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives and introduced a bill to rename the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge after the late iconic treaty rights and environmental activist Billy Frank Jr.

The Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act, introduced on Thursday November 19, would rename the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Cantwell’s bill follows the introduction earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill with the same name that was introduced last May by U.S. Representative Denny Heck (D-Washington). The House bill is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Cantwell’s office said.

"Frank Jr. spent his life fighting for Treaty rights for tribes and Indian people that had long been denied. He was a fierce guardian of our cherished salmon, the Puget Sound, and the rich natural diversity that is revered by all of us who call Washington State home,” said Cantwell in a statement on Thursday November 19. “That’s why today I introduced legislation to name the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge—a critical habitat for salmon, migratory birds and other wildlife—to honor Billy and his fight for the rights of his and all people.”

Like its House counterpart, the Senate bill also would establish the Medicine Creek Treaty National Memorial, at the site of the 1854 signing of the treaty of the same name, and it directs the U.S. Department of the Interior to work with the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup and Squaxin Island Tribes to develop educational materials for the memorial.

The House bill is also supported by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which passed a resolution on June 1 in favor of the idea. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission also support the measure, Cantwell said.

The Senate bill’s introduction comes just as President Barack Obama awarded Frank the Congressional Medal of Freedom, a fact highlighted by Cantwell in remarks to the Senate as she introduced the legislation, and right after a street was named in Frank's honor. 

“Along with his advocacy for protecting Tribal treaty rights, Billy Frank changed the way we look at the environment,” Cantwell said. “Because of his advocacy, we now have environmental restoration efforts throughout the Puget Sound, including at the Nisqually River Delta, the largest tidal marsh rehabilitation in the Northwest. Additionally, we have the Puget Sound Partnership, a tribal and public-private partnership dedicated to improve the health of our Puget Sound. Billy understood that we have a sacred responsibility to be stewards of our environment, and that we must leave it for future generations in better condition than it was left to us.”