More land sought for Alpine Lakes Wilderness
A bill to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is back again this year, this time with a new Wild and Scenic River designation sought for the Pratt River and the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A bill to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is back again this year, this time with a new Wild and Scenic River designation thrown in for good measure.
Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Dave Reichert announced Thursday they are jointly introducing legislation in the House and Senate to add 22,000 acres to the 394,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness area, as Reichert sought to do last year.
The clock ran out on the bill last year, but with the added power of a bipartisan push in both houses of Congress, conservationists are hoping to be successful this time.
The legislation also includes designation of the Pratt River as a Wild and Scenic River, as it did last year. But it goes a step further this time around, to also grant wild and scenic status to 27 miles of the middle fork of the Snoqualmie, beginning at its source.
The Middle Fork is a triumph of a sorts already, a born-again beauty spot brought back from decades of abuse by citizen activists who hauled junked cars and tires out of the river and closed down pirate roads to the banks.
"There used to be chop shops in the river banks with people stripping cars for parts," said Tom Uniack of the Washington Wilderness Coalition, which supports the bill. "People have really taken that river back, and this is icing on the cake."
Tom O'Keefe of American Whitewater, a recreation group, said he believes the wild and scenic designation would bring much deserved protection to two beautiful rivers, by banning development of any dams on them. "This says free-flowing rivers have value, too," O'Keefe said.
Wild and Scenic designation does not trump local zoning, and it does not affect private land. It does, however, engage the federal government in a planning process with local land owners and governments to designate a protected corridor along the river's banks — usually out about one-quarter mile — within which further development, such as logging or building roads, would not be allowed.
However the boundaries are yet to be determined and carveouts could always occur.
All of the Pratt River, and much of the middle fork of the Snoqualmie, already flow through public or protected lands.
Murray and Reichert each said the wilderness expansion could be a gift to future generations.
"I was born and raised in Washington, as was my husband, and grew up enjoying the out of doors, and now we have a grandchild I would like to [have] enjoy them, too," Murray said.
The lowlands that would be added to the wilderness area provide spectacular recreation close to Seattle, in what is already one of the most popular wilderness destinations in the area.
Reichert said "it is not going to be an easy process," but predicted that with more clout behind the bill, "hopefully we will get it passed this year."
This week Congress already has handed hikers a big gift, with final approval on Wednesday of designation for the Pacific Northwest Trail as a National Scenic Trail. The 1,200-mile trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean
That should help bring added visibility and funding to a trail that has had a loyal following, but not much recognition.
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
NEW - 07:13 AM
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is writing memoir
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.