Legislation to Protect Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers Reintroduced (WA)
CONSERVATIONISTS APPLAUD BIPARTISAN REINTRODUCTION OF WILDERNESS AND RIVERS LEGISLATION IN ALPINE
Proponents to build on significant legislative progress during last Congressional session
ALPINE LAKES PROTECTION SOCIETY * AMERICAN RIVERS * AMERICAN WHITEWATER * MIDDLE FORK COALITION * NORTH CASCADES CONSERVATION COUNCIL * THE MOUNTAINEERS * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * WASHINGTON CHAPTER SIERRA CLUB * WASHINGTONTRAILS ASSOCIATION * WASHINGTON WILDERNESS COALITION
Seattle– Today Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert re-introduced joint legislation (“Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act", HR 608) 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.
“The local support for this bill and the bipartisan leadership of our Congressional Champions brought this bill one step away from becoming law last year,” said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition’s Conservation Director. “We are committed to continuing to work to push this important legislation over the goal line during this new Congressional session.”
Powered by strong local support, identical legislation passed unanimously through the Senate and Energy Natural Resources Committee, but, along with more than a hundred other natural resource bills, it was never brought to the floor for procedural reasons. It was the only wilderness bill to both pass the House Natural Resources Committee and gain approval on the House Floor.
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.
"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, who testified in favor of the bill at both the House and Senate hearings last session. "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."
The areas that would be protected under the bill 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.
“Expanding the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness is an amazing opportunity to preserve a pristine area that is right in our backyard,” said Peter Dykstra, Pacific Northwest Regional 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. 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.”
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. As a result the bill has garnered local support from key stakeholders including nearly 80 local elected officials, more than 100 local businesses, more than 50 conservation and recreation groups and nearly 70 Washington faith leaders. There has also been strong support from the Washington Congressional delegation. Senator Cantwell and Representatives Inslee, Smith, Dicks and McDermott are original cosponsors of the legislation.
“The key to the success of this legislation has been the willingness of Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert to listen to concerns raised by key stakeholders early on in the process and to address them,” said Mark Lawler of the Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We are confident that approach will pay dividends for all of us who want to see this incredible landscape protected.”
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. This bill is taking an important step towards completing the work that was started so long ago.”
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.
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