Statement on the First Anniversary of Wild Sky Wilderness

May 8, 2009

“Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the creation of the Wild Sky Wilderness. As the first new national forest wilderness area in Washington state in over 20 years, Wild Sky Wilderness symbolizes Washington’s legacy of preserving our special wild places.

“Thanks to the unwavering commitment of our congressional champions, Senator Murray and Congressman Larsen, visitors and residents alike are able to enjoy this world-class recreation destination in the beautiful North Cascades and know that their children and grandchildren will be able to do the same.

“The work to protect Wild Sky Wilderness demonstrated that people from all walks of life care about the preservation of our public lands from the small business owner to the local hunter and angler. This diverse support showed that we can all work together to ensure the economic future of our towns and communities while preserving spectacular wildlands.

“We now have the opportunity to continue this wild legacy with the recent joint introduction of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions bill by Senator Murray and Congressman Reichert. Wild Sky shows the deep support for conservation and preservation of our wild lands in Washington State and we look forward to congressional action on the proposed additions to the Alpine Lakes.”

Background

Wild Sky Wilderness - The Wild Sky Wilderness protects 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 protecting vital habitat for wildlife. Permanent protection of this diverse landscape ensures the ecological future of fish and wildlife throughout the region, safeguards world-class recreational opportunities and bolsters the economies of local communities. Thousands of visitors come to enjoy the Wild Sky’s 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.

The Wild Sky Wilderness is part of the North Cascades, one of the largest intact eco-systems left in the continental United States. The ecosystem bridges the Cascade Mountains, from Puget Sound to the Columbia River and from the I-90 corridor to the Canadian border. Wild Sky provides lowland forest access to the wilderness experience for humans and protects the habitat and migration corridors of species important to the Pacific Northwest.

Work to protect Wild Sky was launched by Congressman Larsen and Senator Murray over 8 years ago. Larsen and Murray brought stakeholders throughout the Sky Valley together and worked with them to develop a proposal that reflected their input. The result was a widely supported proposal that won praise from leaders across the state and on Capitol Hill. 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.

Proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions – The proposal will help ensure the future of some of Washington’s most popular backcountry recreation areas by designating more than 22,000 acres of wilderness adjacent to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The legislation will also protect nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The joint legislation was introduced by Senator Murray and Representation Reichert on March 26, 2009.

By John Chelminiak, North Cascades Initiative Director, The Wilderness Society