Rafting in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions, Washington. Photo by Thomas O'Keefe.
Wilderness supporters celebrated Thursday as the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 1769 / S. 721) got one step closer to reality after House passage of the bill. The measure would protect an additional 22,000 acres of wilderness adjoining Washington state’s 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.
“It was a great day for wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in our beautiful North Cascades,” said John Chelminiak, North Cascades Initiative director for The Wilderness Society. “It’s a great wilderness bill built on bipartisan and strong local support that will preserve these amazing places for all to experience and enjoy.”
Less than an hour’s drive from the Seattle metropolitan area, the legislation provides protection for diverse low-elevation forests with robust fish and wildlife populations that include cougars, black bears, elk and native trout. Inclusion of low-elevation land will conserve diverse ecosystems, add to the biodiversity of the wilderness area and protect recreational opportunities such as hiking, backpacking, fishing, climbing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Also included in the legislation are additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which covers the entire 10-mile stretch of the Pratt River and nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, leaving them in their present pristine condition. These rivers are home to world-class fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting, are within easy reach of Seattle and provide residents with easy opportunities to experience their free-flowing nature.
The House bill is sponsored by Congressman Dave Reichert and co-sponsored by Representatives Inslee, Smith, Baird and McDermott. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Patty Murray and co-sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell.
The Senate bill has already passed out of committee. The next step towards passage is a full vote by the Senate body.
photo: Rafting in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions, Washington. Photo by Thomas O'Keefe.