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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – On Monday, March 15, U.S. Senator Murray delivered the keynote address to 300 environmentalists, elected officials and community leaders at the "Get Wild" 3rd Snohomish County Conservation Celebration.

Senator Murray’s Remarks Follow:

Thank you, Bob [Drewel, Executive Director, Puget Sound Regional Council]. Bob, we’ve worked so closely together over the years, and I’m excited to have you at the Puget Sound Regional Council because I know our partnership will continue to produce good things for the entire region.

I want to thank Larry Ehl, Aaron Reardon, Mayor Stephanson, Gene Duvernoy, John Howell, Peter Jackson, Bruce Williams, Peggy Bill, and Herman Williams. But most of all, I want to thank all of you for coming and for your commitment to preservation. I’m thrilled to join with you to celebrate the Cascade Land Conservancy, and the progress we’re making protecting Washington’s great spaces.

I’ve Been Proud to Support Conservation in Washington

We have a great tradition of preserving the places that make Washington unique, and I’m honored to help you continue that tradition today. Over the years, I’ve been proud to stand with leaders throughout our state to make sure we leave our grandchildren with the wild places that capture our history and our heritage. During the past few years, I’ve worked with the CLC to secure funding for the Skykomish River, Maury Island, Raging River, and Yakima River. I have worked to bring tens of millions of dollars to the Cascade range, the Skagit river valley, the Columbia Gorge, Whidbey Island, and to other special places across the state.

This year, we’re working to protect lands in the Carbon River valley and Cedar Green forest. We’re also seeking more funding for Maury Island. I especially want to thank CLC for working with the Longview Fibre company to try and acquire some company lands for the Wild Sky Wilderness. Right now, we are so close to finally protecting the Wild Sky Wilderness – and to opening new economic opportunities for the region. I know many of you have been champions in that effort from the beginning.

I also know that it can be frustrating to have victory after victory in the Senate but a lack of progress over in the House of Representatives. It’s great to have Congressman Larsen fighting the good fight in the House, and I know he’s frustrated as well. Trust me, I know it can take a while, but I also know that in the end it’s worth it.

Lessons from Protecting the Hanford Reach

I think the best example of that for me personally was my eight-year journey to protect the Hanford Reach down in the Tri-Cities. For a moment, I want to talk about that preservation challenge because it holds some lessons for all of us as we work to acquire land and secure easements from Puget Sound to the Cascade Range.

I said that my Hanford Reach journey started eight years ago, but in fact, it started long before that when my grandparents settled in the Tri-Cities. My father was born there, and it’s a place that holds a lot of special memories for me.

I remember during my summer vacation getting in the car and driving to the Tri-Cities to see my grandmother. I also remember watching the hydros and swimming in the river with my six brothers and sisters. Later, when I was in college, I spent a great summer working at Sacajawea State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I came to respect the history of the area, and the people who lived in the community.

I remember the first time I floated down the Hanford Reach. I was with my daughter, Sara. We were so impressed with the beautiful landscape, the fish and wildlife, and the reminders of Native American culture along the Reach. As we floated along, we saw the reactors, and I told her about the role the Tri-Cities played in helping America win World War II and about her grandfather's part in that important history. We were both deeply affected by that day on the river, and it is a memory that I cherish.

When I started fighting to protect the Reach, my dad told me he thought it was great that I was working to give something back to his hometown – to a community that had given so much to our family and to our country. Like me, he felt that we share an obligation to clean up the site and protect the surrounding environment.

And so I began a journey of bringing people together to make it happen. I worked to pass legislation. We held meeting after meeting, and I worked to make sure we had local input throughout the process. It was a long journey. It took a lot of people and a real commitment. But we got it done, and the Reach was declared a national monument in 2000. And for me, it was such a touching day when Vice President Gore came out to the Tri-Cities, we got on a boat, and I got to give him a tour of the Hanford Reach – and show him just how important its preservation is to our state.

Unfortunately, my dad never lived to see the end result, but my children did – and I know that the Reach will be protected, open for recreation, and a home for healthy salmon stocks for generations. My dad might not have seen the Reach become protected, but I know that my great grandchildren will be able to have a day on the river, just like my daughter and I did, because we all worked together to protect it.

I think there are a lot of lessons you can draw from that victory – lessons that can guide us as we work to preserve and protect land in this part of the state.

Coalitions Matter

I think the most important lesson is that it takes a broad coalition to get things done. For the Hanford Reach, we brought together local leaders, elected officials from every level, tribes, and so many others. It was that coalition that helped us move past some of the things that had held up progress for years. And I’ve got to say that I’m proud that the CLC has brought together so many people to protect our region’s wild and open spaces. You are proof that coalitions matter.

Our Traditions are a Source of Strength

Another lesson is that each of these attempts to protect our environment is part of a much larger context, and each of us, in our own way, contributes to that tradition. It was 40 years ago that the Wilderness Act was signed into law. It really put us on track to protect our spectacular landscapes.

One of the original supporters of this legislation was Senator Henry M. Jackson, whose son, Peter, is here with us today. Scoop did not stop with the enactment of the original Wilderness Act. He went on to champion various wilderness designations in Washington state throughout his entire career. Today, we sit in the shadow of wilderness that honors him.

The Henry M. Jackson Wilderness was created 20 years ago and was the last Forest Service Wilderness designated in Washington State. The 1984 Washington Wilderness Act was championed by a bi-partisan group of members of the Washington state delegation. So we have a tradition that’s worth remembering and drawing strength from as we encounter bumps along the way.

Leadership Matters

A third important lesson is that the people in our government can be a great help or a great hindrance to protecting our land for future generations. The things that make these victories possible – tools like the Land and Water Conservation Fund – have not gotten consistent support from Congress or various Administrations. We’ve even seen changes within the current Administration.

During his first campaign, President Bush said he would support full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And indeed, the President’s early actions gave us some hope. In 2000, Congressman Dicks managed to create the Conservation Trust Account. It set forth increasing spending levels on a range of conservation accounts from $752 million to $2.4 billion over five years.

Congressman Dicks’s achievement was tremendous, and that year President Clinton signed an Interior bill that spent $445 million on federal land acquisition. The following year, President Bush’s first budget year, appeared to mark a commitment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund with an Interior bill spending $430 million on federal land acquisition.

Unfortunately, today things have changed. The President’s budget request for next year is a scant $205 million. And it is not just the President. The House Republican Chairman – backed by his leadership – only wants to spend $100 million nationwide in federal acquisition funds.

So leadership matters, and knowing that I’ve used everything I’ve got in the Senate to try and save the things that matter to our state. In fact, in the FY 2004, I was able to hold on to the largest single Forest Service land acquisition in the nation for the I-90/Plum Creek lands. We have a tremendous challenge in building back up the federal funding for land acquisition, but we’re going to use our leadership to do it. And I know that with the support and leaders we have in this room, we can make progress.

Next, I’d like to mention a few of the things we’re working on because I believe we can turn all of them into victories.

Protect the Cascade Foothills

I want to start with the Cascade Foothills. As we all know, through the leadership of Aaron and Gene, joined by John Ladenburg, Ron Sims, and Doug Sutherland, the three central Puget Sound counties have set out to protect 600,000 acres along the Cascade foothills.

We are not going to simply buy up this land and the Foothills Initiative recognizes that. This ambitious effort recognizes that working forests are better for our air, water, and general quality of life than endless sprawl. There are over 90,000 small, private-forest land owners managing over 4 million acres of forestland in Washington state. Most of these lands are located at lower elevations in our watersheds.

Even if it were possible, it’s not in our economic interest to buy them out. And it’s not in our environmental interest to force the sale of these lands and wind up with endless sprawl. We need to develop an array of management standards that protect our rivers, streams, fish, and wildlife and -- at the same time – can provide landowners with the economic certainty they need. It’s in all of our interests that these families be able to keep their lands in forest production.

I hope that with your leadership, state and federal agencies, working closely with the Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Practices Board, can bring all of these priorities together and create another victory for our region.

Pass the Community Forestry Bonds Act

Another action we need to take is to pass into law the Community Forestry Bonds Act. That is my bill to change the tax code to clarify that communities can issue bonds on behalf of a private non-profit organization to purchase tracts of land. This would protect the land from development, while allowing jobs that depend on harvesting the land to continue. The bonds would be paid off by harvesting the resources on the land, in a responsible, sustainable way.

Right now, it’s unclear whether the tax code allows communities to harvest lands they’ve purchased with bonds. Gene has spent so much time championing this bill because he knows what it will do. It will give communities a new tool to fight urban sprawl and protect green spaces from development. It will allow communities to keep important jobs -- from mill workers to timber harvesters. Finally, it will bring communities together because these non-profit groups will have stakeholders from every side included.

The Community Forestry Bonds Act will move us away from the conflicts of the past and will encourage environmentalists, timber companies, farmers, and local governments to work together to maintain these green spaces. I have been working on this legislation for years. In fact, I’ve passed it through the Senate three times, but until this year the House had not acted. Because the House failed to act, we missed a great opportunity to protect some lands that Weyerhaeuser has now sold.

Today, my bill is in conference between the House and Senate as part of a broader tax package. I hope it can be signed into law this year, and I want to thank Gene and the CLC for all your support for this legislation.

Protect the Wild Sky Wilderness

Finally, we’ve got to go the distance and protect the lands around the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness by passing my Wild Sky Wilderness bill. I am pleased to say this bill has passed the Senate twice. Congressman Larsen is working hard to move the bill through the House, and as former Governor and Senator Dan Evans has noted, it will take a bi-partisan effort to assure this will happen.

We have a long history of bi-partisan work on Wilderness in Washington state. From Scoop and Maggie, to Slade Gorton and Dan Evans, to Sid Morrison, Al Swift, and Norm Dicks, we have always had bi-partisan support for moving wilderness bills. I hope the House will follow this legacy and move quickly to enact the Wild Sky Wilderness Act.

So in closing I just want to return back to those lessons I mentioned: coalitions are the key; we are doing our part in a long and proud Washington tradition; and finally, leadership matters. With those lessons and the commitment that we all share, we can change the priorities in Washington, D.C., and once again give our communities the tools to protect our lands.

You’ve got great leadership here at the CLC. You’ve got a great track record of success. I know that working together, we can preserve the places that make Washington great, and I am proud to be your champion in the United States Senate.