(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – United States Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced today that she has secured $3.4 million for the I-90/Plum Creek Land Acquisition in the FY 2005 Interior Appropriations Bill. The new funding will help the Forest Service acquire land left out of the original land exchange, and will complete the agreement six years after its inception.

"I'm so proud to secure the money needed to realize the vision set out in this project," Murray said. "It's been a long road – and often an uphill climb – but thanks to the hard work of Plum Creek and so many concerned citizens, we've made it happen."

In 1998, Congress passed a land agreement between Plum Creek Timber and the National Forest Service through which Plum Creek would exchange ecologically sensitive and precious old-growth forestland in the Cascades for timberland. Though the scope of the agreement decreased in 1999, the government and Plum Creek agreed on 29 parcels of land that would be available for purchase and protection.

That year, the government purchased eight of the 29 parcels, and Plum Creek offered the remaining 21 parcels as options with a 3-year deadline for purchase. Since then, Plum Creek has extended the deadline for purchase of the optional lands twice, allowing more time to appropriate the funds necessary. The funding Senator Murray secured will complete the acquisition of all the lands in the original agreement.

“The acquisition of these lands between Cle Elum Lake and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, which were included in the original land exchange package, ensures that the public will enjoy the area’s recreational and environmental benefits for generations to come,” said Rick R. Holley, President and CEO of Plum Creek. “Senator Murray has championed the completion of the I-90 Land Exchange since it was proposed in 1996, and her consistent support has been a major factor in its success," Holley said.

"For years, we've been working to push this exchange through in a way that satisfies all the parties involved, and I'm thrilled that we've succeeded in protecting these precious lands for future generations," Senator Murray said. "I'm so grateful to Plum Creek for their cooperation. They've truly been outstanding partners through this whole effort."

Senator Murray has been a strong advocate for this project from its outset, and is credited with keeping the agreement alive when, last year, neither the president's budget nor the House Interior Appropriations Committee allocated any money for the acquisition. Senator Murray, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked to secure $5 million for the project for FY 2004, the largest Forest Service earmark for a single acquisition in the entire FY 2004 Interior Appropriations bill. Since 2001, she has secured nearly $36 million for this acquisition: $4 million in FY 2003 and FY 2002, and $19.5 million in 2001, in addition to the $8.4 million over the last two years.

"We've gotten a lot of money for this agreement over the past several years. This year's funding seals what is truly a landmark deal," Murray said. "To me, it just goes to show what the people of Washington state can accomplish when they work together to do what's right for the future of our state."