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Middle Fork Snoqualmie Legislation Continues to Move Forward (WA)

Posted: 08/01/2013
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Legislative momentum continues to build for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 112, H. R. 361). Following passage of the bill by unanimous consent in the Senate, the House formally took up the legislation with a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.

"The Middle Fork Snoqualmie is one of the nation's most spectacular whitewater rivers in close proximity to a major metropolitan area, and we are thrilled that support for this legislation has continued to build," said Thomas O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. "We applaud Congressman Reichert (R-WA08) for making this legislation a priority since 2007, and his work with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA01) to make this a bipartisan effort."
At the hearing, Congressman Dave Reichert and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, both sponsors in the House, gave testimony in support of protecting the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers and their adjoining forest. Additionally, Republican King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who has been a local supporter of the proposal from the beginning, also testified in support of the legislation.  
"I grew up in a family that understood the importance of these wild places, especially close to population centers where families can go hike, fish and camp without having to spend a great deal of money or drive long distances from home,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn in his written testimony submitted at the hearing. “And now my son and daughter will have the privilege of enjoying this land as well."
The legislation would protect an additional 22,000 acres of Wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and would add 10 miles of the Pratt River and nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River to the National Wild and Scenic River System. The bill was introduced into the current Congress on January 24, 2013, with bipartisan support from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA08) and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA01).
After significant outreach to local stakeholders, Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray carefully crafted the legislation, resulting in strong local support. The bill has garnered endorsements from more than 70 local elected officials, more than 100 outdoor local businesses in the Snoqualmie River Valley and leading members of the outdoor industry, and nearly 150 conservation, recreation, hunting and fishing and religious leaders.  
Originally designated in 1976, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area has since become one of the most popular Wilderness areas in the country. The legislation would add an additional 22,000 acres to the existing Wilderness area.
The proposed Wilderness additions are comprised of dense low-elevation forests whose robust wildlife populations include cougars, black bears, bobcats, elk, deer, and native trout. The inclusion of low-elevation land will conserve diverse ecosystems, add to the biodiversity of the wilderness area, and protect recreation opportunities such as hiking, backpacking, climbing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Currently, only 6% of all designated Wilderness on national forest lands in Washington State are low elevation (i.e., below 3,000 ft). More than half of the proposed Wilderness in the Alpine Lakes bill includes low elevation forests and streams.    
Washington State has only 200 miles of rivers designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act--far less than neighboring Oregon, which boasts 2,000 miles. This legislation would designate the first Wild and Scenic river designations in the central Cascades, targeting the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers. These rivers are home to world-class fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Their protection under the National Wild and Scenic River System would safeguard high water quality for downstream residents and preserves critical wildlife habitat. These rivers would be protected as free-flowing streams, providing residents of the Seattle area with increased access to water-based recreation.

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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Snoqualmie, Middle Fork WA
Snoqualmie, Middle Fork WA
Snoqualmie, Middle Fork WA

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Middle Fork Snoqualmie (WA)

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