Washington, DC – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08), joined by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Washington State Congressmen Jay Inslee (WA-01), Brian Baird (WA-03), Adam Smith (WA-05), and Jim McDermott (WA-07), introduced legislation today in the Senate and House that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and designate both the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act will expand the existing wilderness by over 22,000 acres to include important lower-elevation lands and complete watersheds.
”Conservation and preservation of our natural resources reflects the values I grew up with here in Washington State. I want to leave the same kind of legacy for my grandson and for future generations to enjoy,” Senator Murray said. “Pushing new wilderness in Congress is not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do and the right way to do it is by working together. That’s why I’m proud to join with Congressman Reichert and many other members of our state’s Congressional delegation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and add new protections for our rivers.”
“We brought together stakeholders, local elected officials, businesses, sportsmen and many others to ensure this process is collaborative and we will continue to seek their input as we move forward. I know the road to passing wilderness is not always easy, but when it’s done right, in a collaborative way, I believe we will have something to celebrate and enjoy for generations.”
“What we do today will have a lasting impact on future generations. We must do our part to preserve land, not just in faraway places, but in our own backyard, here in Washington State,” said Reichert. “I’m excited that Senator Patty Murray is joining me in this effort to preserve wilderness, and I am also grateful for the support of Congressmen Inslee, Baird, Smith, and McDermott in carrying on the great Washington State conservation tradition of working together to preserve our natural resources for our children and grandchildren. I am hopeful that joining forces in the House and Senate will enable us to move this bill quickly and see it become law.
“This effort is a direct result of the hard work of countless volunteers and stakeholders from across the Eastside and the state who came together to help advance this important bill. I look forward to working with Senator Murray, our Washington State delegation, and our supporters as we work to make this a reality.”
“This is an exciting time for all of us who have been working to support this important legislation.” said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition’s Conservation Director. “We are so thankful for the strong congressional leadership provided by Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert on this proposal. Like the effort to designate the Wild Sky Wilderness, this legislation is built on bipartisan and strong local support which should serve it well as it moves through Congress.”
The existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976 by the late Congressman Lloyd Meeds and is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country. It is one of the closest blocks of wild forests to an urban center in the country and provides diverse recreational opportunities. Key elements of the new Alpine Lakes legislation include:
- Providing the protection of the Wilderness Act of 1964 for the lower elevation lands, which will bring a richer diversity of ecosystems, including deeply forested valleys, into the wilderness area and increase its overall biodiversity. The addition of these lower elevation lands also has the direct effect of protecting a broader array of outdoor recreational opportunities easily accessible for wilderness enthusiasts.
- To designate the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic, which would permanently protect the rivers’ free-flowing character, water quality and outstanding recreation, fisheries, wildlife, geological and ecological values. This designation provides for many recreational activities including unique backcountry hiking, kayaking, and white water rafting that is unheard of so close to a major urban center.
Reichert, joined by state and local officials, other local leaders and constituents of the community, announced his intention to introduce legislation in August 2007, and introduced the original wilderness protection measure in November 2007. From extensive stakeholder inquiries involving recreation groups, conservationists, tribes, local lawmakers, nearby landowners and public agencies, Reichert worked carefully to involve these stakeholders in discussions as the legislation was crafted and as it was introduced.
Following a long-fought victory to create the Wild Sky Wilderness Area in 2008, Senator Murray continued a tradition of open public process to help protect public lands. Murray held meetings with stakeholders and a public workshop early in 2009 to discuss the wilderness proposal and hear local community input on the legislation. As a result of those meetings, Senator Murray wrote companion legislation in the Senate and both versions of the bill include the new addition of Wild and Scenic designation for the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.