House committee passes expansion of Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Feb 24, 2010

Legislation Would Preserve Additions to Alpine Lakes Wilderness
and Portions of the Pratt River and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

SEATTLE — Supporters of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act celebrated today as the legislation moved closer to final passage. The House Committee on Natural Resources approved the measure which 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 passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in December. Proponents of the legislation praised and thanked Representative Dave Reichert for his continuing leadership and advocacy for protection of wilderness and free-flowing rivers in the North Cascades.

“This is an exciting time for wilderness supporters,” said Tom Uniack, Washington Wilderness Coalition’s Conservation Director. “We thank Congressman Reichert for his continued leadership to build legislation on bipartisan and strong local support, and to preserve these amazing places for all Washingtonians to experience and enjoy.”

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. These additions are comprised of dense low-elevation forests whose robust fish and wildlife populations include cougars, black bears, bobcats, elk, deer, and 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, fishing, climbing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

“This is a great day for wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the North Cascades. Generations to come will thank our Washington state delegation for their efforts to ensure the future of Washington’s amazing wildlands,” said Peter Dykstra, Regional Director for The Wilderness Society. “This legislation recognizes and preserves key recreation opportunities in the North Cascades and enhances our communities by contributing to their economic vitality.”

The proposed legislation would also protect 10 miles of the Pratt River and nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. These rivers are home to world-class fishing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Their protection under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System safeguards high water quality for downstream residents and preserves critical wildlife habitat. These rivers will be protected as free-flowing streams that are within easy reach of a major urban center, providing residents of the Seattle area with increased access to water-based recreation.

“Protection of these spectacular rivers has so many benefits for nearby communities,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “With the proximity of the Pratt and Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie rivers to the major urban center of Seattle, residents of the region have unparalleled access to an abundance of recreational opportunities provided by these world-class rivers. As someone who has explored hundreds of river miles across the country and around the world, I can confidently say that we have some of the most spectacular river resources of any place in the world.”

Washington state lawmakers have built a rich history of working with local citizens to protect a wild legacy, ensuring that both recreation opportunities and intact, healthy ecosystem are preserved for future generations.

“Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray are continuing the work that was started with the original Alpine Lakes Wilderness designation,” said Donald Parks of the Alpine Lakes Protection Society. “The addition of measures to protect rare low-elevation old-growth and mature forests, fish habitat, and multi-season recreational opportunities will help to preserve some of Washington’s most treasured wildlands.”

The conservation community commends Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray for their leadership and bipartisan work on this legislation. They have developed legislation which protects remaining wild resources while ensuring future recreational opportunities. There has also been strong support from the Washington Congressional delegation, including Senator Cantwell and Representatives Inslee, Smith, Baird and McDermott, who were original cosponsors of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act.


This is a joint release by Alpine Lakes Protection Soicety, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Cascade Sierra Club, Middle Fork Coalition, North Cascades Conservation Council, The Mountaineers, The Wilderness Society, the Washington Trails Association, and the Washington Wilderness Coalition.
 

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