(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) provided testimony for a Senate Subcommittee hearing supporting her Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. The legislation passed out of Committee last Congress, but did not pass the full Senate. This Hearing is the first step towards advancing this important public lands bill. During the hearing, the U.S. Forest Service expressed their support for the legislation.
"Protecting our nation’s special places is absolutely critical,” said Senator Murray. “This expansion, and the designation of the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie rivers as wild and scenic will ensure that this treasured landscape will be protected for future generations to enjoy. I look forward to working to move this legislation through the Senate.”
In her statement, Senator Murray described the environmental, economic, and recreational benefits of this legislation.
Below is Senator Murray’s full statement submitted for the record:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for including the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act as part of your hearing today.
“The existing 394,000 acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a treasure both in Washington state and across the country. As one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country, Alpine Lakes Wilderness gives millions of people the opportunity to enjoy our public lands just a short drive from Seattle.
“Today we are here to discuss the opportunity to permanently protect additional lands near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and to designate two rivers of great importance to the surrounding ecosystem as Wild and Scenic. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act will protect wildlife, promote clean water, enhance and protect recreational opportunities, reflect the diverse landscapes of the Puget Sound region, and contribute to the local economy.
“This has been a team effort and I want to thank Senator Cantwell for being here. I appreciate her co-sponsorship of this bill as well as her assistance.
“I also want to acknowledge my colleague and partner on this bill, Congressman Dave Reichert. Throughout this process, Dave has reached out to the local communities and stakeholders to understand their priorities.
“The bill before you today is the result of discussion and negotiation with the local community and interested stakeholders regarding issues such as mountain bike use, search and rescue operations, ski operations, and road and trailhead access.
“My colleagues and I have worked hard to address constructive issues and concerns that have been brought to us. I am grateful to everyone who reached out to us and worked with us, and I think you’ll see that because we worked hard to address those concerns, this bill has garnered broad support.
“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to mention just a few of the benefits the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act will offer.
“First, this wilderness area will protect wildlife and promote clean water by preserving the landscapes that host many native plants and animals. The wilderness is home to abundant elk and deer populations as well as other animals and native fish populations.
“Second, this wilderness designation, along with the Wild and Scenic River designations will enhance and protect recreational opportunities for our growing region. More people and more families are turning to outdoor recreation on our public lands. This bill protects the area for users today and into the future, and will preserve existing road and trailhead access.
“That leads me to the third benefit of this bill: Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations will contribute to the local economy. Even during the tough economy of the last several years, outdoor industry retail sales have stayed strong. That means more people are going out more often into our wildlands and the gateway communities that serve them. The existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness is already a destination and these additional protections will add to the allure of this special place.
“Another driving purpose behind the bill is the inclusion of low elevation lands. The proposed additions we are discussing today provide an opportunity to protect rare low elevation old growth and mature forests. These low elevation lands were largely excluded from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in 1976, and about half of the lands included in this proposal are below 3,000 feet in elevation.
“I appreciate that Associate Chief Mary Wagner from the Forest Service is here today to testify. I understand that the Forest Service will provide some suggestions on the legislation, and I look forward to working with them.
“Mr. Chairman, the mountain valleys of the Alpine Lakes area are a special place to many in Washington state. And the legislation will ensure that we protect these special places for today’s users and future generations. I appreciate your time today and I look forward to working with you and the Committee to move forward on this legislation.”