Can Congress save Washington’s Green Mountain Lookout?

Photo: Green Mountain Lookout, in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Credit: Brian Turner (National Trust for Historic Preservation).

The Green Mountain Lookout, a cherished landmark in Washington’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, may become a victim of Congressional discord.

(UPDATE: President Obama signed this into law on April 15, 2014, ensuring that Green Mountain Lookout would be saved)

The structure has been a destination for hikers in the stunning Glacier Peak Wilderness for generations, prompting The Wilderness Society and other conservation and historical preservation groups to support saving it. However, some claim that repairing and restoring the lookout has compromised the natural purity of the area. Amid that fight, a measure for its protection was hidden inside a flawed public lands legislation package--spelling doom in Congress when a standalone bill may have passed.

“To the disappointment of many supporters—like The Wilderness Society—H.R. 908, The Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act, was recently folded into a controversial public lands package that included a number of highly partisan proposals,“ said Kitty Craig, a Washington-based regional conservation representative for The Wilderness Society. “This means that efforts to save the Green Mountain Lookout are stalled once again, and for no real reason other than dysfunction in D.C.”

This echoed Rep. Suzan Delbene, who introduced the pro-conservation bill. She noted in a speech on the House floor that the Green Mountain Lookout bill would likely have passed with bipartisan support if it had been introduced on its own rather than “wrapped up with a series of very controversial and divisive bills.” Delbene claimed that such treatment was “emblematic of the dysfunction that’s so prevalent, and so unnecessary, in Congress today.”

The Lookout was built atop Green Mountainmore than 80 years ago to spot wildfires across the forested slopes of the North Cascades. Now, it is used seasonally by wilderness rangers and enjoys a place on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1984, the Glacier Peak Wilderness was expanded to include the Green Mountain Lookout.

Luckily, there is still a chance for Congress to do the right thing. In an editorial published on February 23, The Seattle Times advised the passage of a stand-alone Green Mountain bill in the Senate, giving the House a clean shot at making it the law of the land. The Wilderness Society will continue working to help that happen.