Pratt Wild and Scenic Proposal (WA)
The Pratt River and the lands along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River represent one of the most wild areas near a major metropolitan area and this legislation will protect the scenic landscape, wildlife and fishery resources, and recreational experience.
Thomas O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director made the following statement:
"Whitewater boaters have been enjoying the recreational opportunities of the Middle Fork Valley for more than 50 years. This legislation represents another important step in a long process to protect habitat and provide opportunities for the public to enjoy this wonderful place. We are proud to be a part of this process and greatly appreciate the initiative Congressman Reichert has taken to work with the community in developing a future vision for the valley."
Groups supporting the Congressman's efforts to protect the resource values of this special place issued the following joint press release:
Middle Fork Valley – Today, Congressman Reichert announced his intention to introduce legislation that will designate additional wilderness adjacent to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and designate parcels of the Pratt River as a Wild and Scenic River. Conservationists joined local stakeholders and elected officials in highlighting conservation opportunities in the remaining wild forests and rivers in the 8th congressional district.
“This is an exciting time for Wilderness in Washington,” said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition’s Conservation Director. “We have waited more than two decades for new wilderness legislation in Washington and this fall we could have two efforts making their way through Congress. The Wild Sky Wilderness campaign has really shown what is possible when our champions come together in a bipartisan collaborative effort. Congressman Reichert is continuing this tradition today with his effort to protect new wild areas in the Alpine Lakes region.”
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976. While this designation was significant and permanently protected what has become one of the nation’s most popular wilderness destinations, it left out some of the region’s most important low-elevation forests including the Pratt Middle Fork and South Fork Snoqualmie Valleys. These areas are truly the backyard wilderness for the millions of people who live in the Puget Sound basin, providing world-class recreation and ensuring the regions clean water and environment.
“We look forward to working with the entire delegation in the collaborative tradition established by Senator Murray and Congressman Larsen throughout the Wild Sky effort,” said Michelle Ackermann, Regional Director of The Wilderness Society. Future generations will look back on this time as one of the most significant in our efforts to ensure Washington’s remaining wildlands.”
In addition to the wilderness protections, Congressman Reichert also expressed his intention to designate the entire Pratt River as a Wild and Scenic River. This designation will ensure that the Pratt River is fully protected, securing critical habitat for cutthroat trout, elk, mountain goats and many other species. Wild and Scenic designation will also ensure that recreational opportunities on the river including unique backcountry kayaking and world-class hiking can continue, while safeguarding clean water resources for hundreds of thousands of local residents.
“The Pratt is one of the last pristine rivers in western Washington. It is a rare and special thing to have a wild river so close to an urban area, and it’s rivers like the Pratt that make living in the Pacific Northwest so special,” said Bonnie Rice, associate director for conservation for the Northwest office of American Rivers. “A Wild and Scenic designation would protect the Pratt’s clean water, fish and wildlife, and recreation opportunities for future generations. There is no question the Pratt deserves to join the ranks of Washington’s other great Wild and Scenic rivers, like the Skagit and White Salmon.”
Conservationists applaud the work Congressman Reichert has initially put into developing a balanced proposal that protects the remaining wild resources while ensuring future recreational opportunities. They are quick to point out that both recreation and conservation concerns have been addressed in this initials effort.
“WTA has a long history in the Middle Fork Valley. We have maintained trails here for more than a decade, and worked hard to protect the values that make this and other Alpine Lakes Wilderness adjacent areas so special,” said Jonathan Guzzo, Advocacy Director with the Washington Trails Association. “We are looking forward to working with Congressman Reichert and his efforts to include additional areas to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designate the Pratt River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.”
Congressman Reichert’s new efforts are traveling a well worn path of conservation in Washington State. From former Washington lawmakers Governor Dan Evans and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson to today’s heroes Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Rick Larsen, Washington lawmakers have a proud tradition of working with local citizens to protect their wild backyards.
“Congressman Reichert is demonstrating that wilderness is Washington's Common Ground. Washington has a rich history of collaboration in protecting its remaining wild lands and rivers,” said Jon Owen, Deputy Campaigns Director of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. “Now more than ever we need our Washingtonians to work together to protect special places like the Pratt River and the Alpine Lakes. It’s exciting that Congressman Reichert is continuing this tradition.
While Congressman Reichert can draw on the long-cherished bi-partisan traditions of Washington lawmakers he can also count on the steadfast determination of grassroots supporters. Washington’s citizens have always rallied around efforts to protect the state’s remaining wild forests and rivers and conservationists are quick to point out that support for Alpine Lakes Wilderness work has a long history.
“Its been more than 30 years since the Alpine Lakes Wilderness bill passed and local grassroots supporters have never given up hope, nor stopped working to see that additional critical areas would be protected,” said Dan Ritzman, Northwest Regional Director of the Sierra Club. “These special places include the regions most spectacular low-elevation forests found in the heart of the Pratt, Middle Fork and South Fork Snoqualmie Valleys. Today, thanks to Congressman Reichert these special places have a real chance of finally being protected.”