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Wild Sky Wilderness Update

Posted: 12/29/2003
by Thomas O'Keefe


As legislative activities drew to a close for 2003, the 106,000 acre Wild Sky Wilderness legislation was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate. Senators Murray and Cantwell worked hard to make sure that the full Senate considered the Wild Sky Wilderness bill before adjourning for the holiday recess. Washington Wilderness Coalition praised the two Senators for their effective leadership and tenacious efforts to ensure that this important conservation measure for Washington becomes a reality.


A year ago, the Senate passed the Wild Sky bill during the 107th Congress under a Democratic majority. The legislation also cleared the House Committee, but never got to the floor of the Republican-controlled House before the end of the 107th Congress. The current 2-year term of the 108th Congress continues into next year and the Wild Sky Wilderness proposal is ripe for House action in 2004.


“Yesterday’s Senate action is exactly what the Wild Sky proposal needed –it sends the issue to the House with momentum and a message to the entire Washington delegation that they must work together to get the job done,” said Tom Uniack, Conservation Director for the Washington Wilderness Coalition. “Bipartisan support for the Wild Sky has continued to grow over the past year, with local officials, business leaders and user groups enthusiastically supporting this popular proposal. It’s what the people of Washington want for their backyard and its time Congress got the job done,” said Uniack.



Support for the proposal has grown substantially, including endorsements by more than 70 locally elected officials, including supportive resolutions from the cities of Snohomish and Monroe. In addition, more than 100 businesses and organizations have endorsed the wilderness proposal, including REI, Cascade Designs, Montrail, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and Washington Coalition of Citizens with DisAbilities.


A number of business leaders and elected officials joined nearly 400 citizens at the Wild Sky Festival this summer to show enthusiastic support for the wilderness proposal. Held in the scenic town of Index near the proposed Wilderness, the festival featured guided hikes, rafting and other outings, plus world-renowned nature photographer Art Wolf as a guest speaker and a raffle sponsored by local and regional businesses.



Attention will now shift to the House of Representatives next year during the second session of the 108th Congress. There, the role of Representative Dunn (R-WA-8) and other Washington Republicans could be critical to ensure that the Wild Sky gets passed in the House. Representative Dunn is an original cosponsor of bill introduced by Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA-2), but Representatives George Nethercutt (R-WA-5) and Doc Hastings (R-WA-4) have not taken a public position on the Wild Sky Wilderness issue.


In testimony earlier this year, a senior Bush Administration official stated, “[T]his is a good bill. We commend you and the Washington delegation for the bipartisan nature in which you put it together.…[I]f this bill passes Congress, it will be signed by the President.” Both Republican and Democrat Senators on the Committee also praised the bill in passing it on a voice vote in July.



Bills don’t pass the Senate without a whole lot of effort from someone. In this case Senators Murray and Cantwell did everything they could to pass the Wild Sky through the Republican-led Senate before they went home for Thanksgiving. Their efforts paid off last night BIG TIME! Take a minute to call their district office to say thanks for their efforts in getting the Wild Sky Wilderness bill through the Senate this year.


Senator Patty Murray 206-553-5545

Senator Maria Cantwell 206-220-6400

Associated News