Wedgwood students lobby to make Olympic marmot the state's official native mammal
Students at Seattle's Wedgwood Elementary School have been lobbying lawmakers through e-mails and visits to the state Capitol on behalf of the native Olympic marmot, which they think should be the state endemic mammal.
Seattle Times staff reporter
OLYMPIA — Students at Seattle's Wedgwood Elementary School have been lobbying lawmakers through e-mails and visits to the state Capitol on behalf of the native Olympic marmot, which they want recognized as the state endemic mammal.
Wedgwood teacher Kelly Clark said "the whole school was abuzz" when they heard the bill passed the Senate earlier this week. It now goes to the House for consideration.
More than 50 students have sent e-mails to legislators promoting the bill, Clark said. One of those students, 10-year-old Caroline Malone, said she's looking forward to putting her marmot lobbying experience on her college résumé.
"It's not every day kids make a bill and get this experience," she said.
Not everyone supports the legislation. Some lawmakers say it's a waste of time and money. "I'm not a meanie," said Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane. "I just think we've got more pressing problems."
Sen. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island, who voted against the bill, said the Legislature should be focusing on balancing the budget before putting through bills like this one. He said this was "one more example of a loss of focus."
The Olympic marmot, one of the largest rodents in the squirrel family, stands over a foot tall and is native only to Washington state. Its numbers are declining, said Jim Kenagy, the curator of mammals at the Burke Museum. That's why students are pushing for the mammal to gain recognition.
The creatures hang out in groups of a dozen or more in the alpine zone of Olympic National Park, where they eat plants and avoid confrontations with neighbors, Kenagy said.
One student lobbyist, Garrett Lawrence, 10, said he didn't understand why anyone would oppose the bill. "Maybe they just don't like the Olympic marmot," he said.
The bill, SB-5071, is sponsored by Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle.
Chantal Anderson: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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