SEATTLE - Supporters of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act (H.R. 886/S. 520) celebrated today as the legislation passed out of the Senate as part of a package of non-controversial bills (S.2739), moving the effort one step closer to final passage. Conservationists were quick to praise Senators Murray and Cantwell as well as Congressman Larsen for their unwavering commitment and determination. The package must now return to the House where it is expected to pass without controversy and be signed into law.
“Thanks to the dedicated support of Senator Murray and Congressman Larsen, we are poised to see the first new National Forest Wilderness Area in the state in more than 20 years,” said Tom Uniack, Conservation Director of the Washington Wilderness Coalition. “Our Congressional champions have stayed the course and never waivered in their commitment and support for this historic legislation. Their leadership has kept our hopes and concerns front and center throughout this process and is why this legislation deserves to finally be signed into law.” While the Wild Sky Wilderness Act has now passed both the House and Senate, it must be approved one final time by the House because it was passed as part of a larger package of bills in the Senate. The package is expected to be quickly approved as most of the bills were previously agreed to by the House or contain non-controversial measures. Once approved by the House, the legislation will be sent to the President, who has repeatedly indicated he would sign the bill into law. “We are one step closer to protecting one of our state’s wildest landscapes due to Senator Murray’s and Representative Larsen’s tireless work to protect this special place,” said Michelle Ackermann, Regional Director of The Wilderness Society. “They understand that this effort will safeguard world-class recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. We applaud their commitment to Wild Sky and dedication to preserving the future of our state’s wild legacy.” The Wild Sky Wilderness Act would protect 106,000 acres of forests, rivers, valleys and mountains in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Much of this area is in low elevation forest, allowing easy access for recreationists and protection of vital habitat for wildlife. Permanent protection of this diverse landscape is important to ensure the ecological future of fish and wildlife throughout the region, to safeguard world-class recreational opportunities and to bolster the economies of local communities. Thousands of visitors come to Wild Sky country and the region’s National Forests to enjoy world-class rafting, fishing, rock climbing and many spectacular miles of hiking trails. Additionally, visitors and residents alike can enjoy Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and many other forms of recreation. This steady flow of visitors is crucial to the economic stability of many small towns throughout the region. “Years from now, people won’t remember the struggle and effort that was put into protecting the Wild Sky, but for folks in the Sky Valley this will be one of our finest hours,” said Mike Town with Friends of the Wild Sky. “This legislation is about protecting the Sky Valley’s future and we are truly grateful to have lawmakers like Congressman Larsen and Senator Murray who understand that efforts like this are as much about our communities as they are about our wild places. They deserve our highest gratitude for all of their work. They are truly Washington’s champions.” Nearly 350 Washington elected officials, 180 businesses statewide, more than 150 religious leaders, 29 local hunting and fishing organizations and more than 30 local and national conservation and recreation organizations support protecting Wild Sky as Wilderness. “Passing this bill is the right thing to do. Senator Murray and Representative Larsen are real leaders and great champions of this effort who have really listened and worked with their constituents to make this happen,” said Mark Lawler, local forest conservation spokesperson for the Sierra Club. “This is a truly grassroots effort and we all should be proud of our lawmakers.” “Senator Murray went to bat and just hit a grand slam,” said Jon Owen, Deputy Campaigns Director for the Campaign for America’s Wilderness. “She overcame some tough obstacles and is sending Wild Sky on its way home for all Washingtonians. She and Congressman Larsen have stood their ground many times these last seven years, building a strong coalition of support for Wild Sky and it has paid off,” Owen added. “They proved once again that Wild Sky is Washington’s Common Ground.”