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Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert introduce new Wild and Scenic bill

Posted: 03/26/2009
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Building off Statewide Traditions Legislation Will Protect Washington’s Most Popular Backcountry Recreation Areas
Seattle – Today Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert introduced joint legislation (“Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act” H.R. 1769 and S. 721) that will help ensure the future of some of Washington’s most popular backcountry recreation areas by designating more than 22,000 acres of wilderness adjacent to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The legislation will also protect nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Conservationists and recreationists joined local stakeholders and elected officials in applauding the much anticipated announcement and praised Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert for their leadership on Alpine Lake Wilderness expansion and Wild and Scenic River designations.
“This is an exciting time for wilderness supporters,” said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition’s Conservation Director. “Like the effort to designate the Wild Sky Wilderness, this legislation is built on bipartisan and strong local support, which should serve it well as it moves through Congress.” 
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, some of the region’s most important low-elevation forests including the Pratt, Middle Fork and South Fork Snoqualmie valleys were not included in the original bill.
“The Alpine Lake Wilderness Area is one of Washington’s most treasured icons,” said Donald Parks of the Alpine Lakes Protection Society who was also intimately involved in the original designation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in 1976. “Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray are taking the leadership to continue the work that was started in 1976 by adding important protections to rare low elevation old-growth and mature forests, fish habitat and multi-season recreational opportunities. These bills are taking an important step towards completing the work that was started so long ago.”
These areas provide great recreational opportunities for individuals and families to experience. By introducing legislation to protect these remaining areas Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert are ensuring these world-class recreational opportunities and clean water and wildlife habitat will be preserved into the future.
“The Alpine Lakes Wilderness connects the wildlands between Snoqualmie, Stevens and Blewett passes,” said John Chelminiak, North Cascades Initiative Director for The Wilderness Society. “This legislation preserves key recreation opportunities for more than three million people in the region, improves wildlife habitat and enhances our communities by protecting two river corridors. Future generations will look back on this measure as one of the most significant in our efforts to ensure the future of Washington’s remaining wildlands for our children and grandchildren.”
In addition to the wilderness protections, the bill will designate the headwaters of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie including its major tributary the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The designation will ensure that the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt River are protected for future generations securing critical habitat for cutthroat trout, elk and many other species. Wild and Scenic designation will also ensure that the quality of recreational opportunities on these rivers including world-class hiking and whitewater paddling opportunities will be protected, while safeguarding clean water resources for hundreds of thousands of local residents. 
 “We applaud Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray for championing these Wild and Scenic designations that ensure we will continue to enjoy these wonderful rivers today and for generations to come,” said David Moryc, Senior Director of River Protection at American Rivers. “As we’ve seen with other Wild and Scenic rivers in the Northwest and across the country, this special designation can bring real benefits to local economies and communities.”
"Few rivers anywhere in the country can match the quality of the recreational resources the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie and the Pratt provide for our communities," said Thomas O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. "Whether it's a quiet fishing trip after work, a day out with friends on some of the most outstanding whitewater the region has to offer, or a weekend with the family in one of the most scenic river valleys in the country, these rivers are tremendous resources for our community."
Washington state lawmakers have built a rich history of working with local citizens to protect a wild legacy— from former Washington lawmakers Governor/U.S. Senator Dan Evans’ and Representative Lloyd Meeds championing of the original 1976 Alpine Lakes Wilderness bill to today’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions—ensuring that both recreation opportunities and intact, healthy ecosystem are preserved for future generations.  
"Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert are continuing the proud Washington State tradition of finding common ground and then protecting it" said Jon Owen, Deputy Campaigns Director for Campaign for America's Wilderness. "They are adding to the Evergreen state's rich bipartisan Wilderness heritage."
Conservationists applaud Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray for their tireless work and leadership on this legislation. Through their consultation processes they have developed a balanced proposal that protects the remaining wild resources, while ensuring future recreational opportunities. There has also been strong support from the Washington Congressional delegation. Senator Cantwell and Representatives Inslee, Smith, Baird and McDermott are original cosponsors of the legislation.
“Grassroots supporters of the Alpine Lakes country have never given up hope, nor stopped working to see that additional critical areas would be protected. Today thanks to Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray’s leadership these special places have a real chance of being protected,” said Mark Lawler of the Cascade Chapter - Sierra Club. “We look forward to working with Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray to protect these significant wild lands.”
Legislation on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions was introduced in the previous Congress, but the clock ran out before any action could be taken. Conservationists are excited by the additional support and leadership in the Senate and are hopeful it will move forward this year.

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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