(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that legislation designating Illabot Creek in Skagit County as a Wild and Scenic River has passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  The legislation, co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell and introduced in the House by Congressman Rick Larsen, will protect the free-flowing character of Illabot Creek, an important habitat for threatened wild Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout and other wildlife, while maintaining recreational opportunities such as hunting and fishing.

“We take our natural resources very seriously in Washington state, and this bill takes us another step forward toward protecting a pristine and delicate habitat for future generations,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Preserving Illabot Creek is vitally important to the many fish and wildlife that depend on it to survive, and it will ensure that this incredible land is protected for hunters, fishermen, and families to enjoy. I thank Congressman Larsen for his strong work on this issue in the House, and I look forward to continuing to work with him to protect Washington state’s amazing natural resources.”

“Protecting and conserving natural habitats has always been important in Washington state, and the designation of Illabot Creek as a wild and scenic river will continue this tradition,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “Illabot Creek provides a crucial spawning habitat for wild Chinook salmon as well as pink, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon.  The protection of these species is critical for our state’s heritage, culture, healthy ecosystems, and economy.”

“I want to thank Senator Murray for her efforts in the Senate to protect Illabot Creek,” said Congressman Rick Larsen. “Designating Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic river will help save endangered species and preserve recreational opportunities for future generations.”

Murray and Larsen introduced the Senate bill in March of this year. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in October.

Senator Murray and Congressman Larsen introduced the legislation on March 18th, and it enjoys broad local support from elected officials, environmentalists, fishermen, agriculture, and other stakeholders.

Illabot Creek flows for 14.3 miles through Skagit County, starting at Snow King Mountain 7,500 feet up in the Cascades and tumbling down to join the Skagit River at 500 feet above sea level. Illabot Creek provides crucial spawning habitat for the wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, all threatened species, and is home to numerous other species including bald eagles that roost along the creek.

According to The Nature Conservancy, the Skagit River watershed supports one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Because of the abundance of salmon and the high quality of habitat, Illabot Creek is the center of foraging activity and supports two communal night roosts. One roost area is within the existing Skagit Wild and Scenic River corridor. The second is within the proposed Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River designation.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers of outstanding value in a free-flowing condition for future generations. The Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River Act will prohibit dams and other water projects that impair the free-flowing nature of a river and establish a protected corridor extending one-quarter mile from the ordinary high-water mark on both sides of the river.  Designating Illabot Creek as a National Wild and Scenic River will complement other local habitat protection and salmon and trout recovery efforts that are underway in the Skagit basin.

Having passed the full committee, the bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.