Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Illabot Creek move one step closer to protection

Rafting the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River

Thomas O'Keefe


Today, after being denied protection in the 112th Congress last year, the 113th has taken steps to ensure that Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Illabot Creek, both in Washington state’s North Cascades, receive the attention they deserve by passing each bill out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
The senate bills are sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray and cosponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell. The Wilderness Society thanks both senators for their tremendous work to improve protections for Alpine Lakes Wilderness and ensure that Illabot Creek is forever a wild waterway.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (S. 112) would protect an additional 22,000 acres of wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and would designate nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Less than an hour’s drive from the Seattle metropolitan area, the 22,000 acres include lower-elevation lands and waters that are popular year-round recreation destinations for hikers, rafters, skiers and kayakers.
Bill S. 383 would designate 14.3 miles of Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River. The legislation would ensure that the free-flowing nature and water quality of the creek in perpetuity. Illabot Creek provides critical habitat for threatened wild Chinook salmon, steelhead, bulltrout and other wildlife. The creek, whose headwaters are located in Glacier Peak Wilderness, is also a prime fishing and recreation area for hikers and hunters.

What’s Next?

Now that both bills have passed the full senate committee, they will now move to the full senate for consideration and hopefully passage.
In the House of Representatives, an identical bill has been introduced for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361) by Reps. Dave Reichert (WA-01) and Suzan DelBene (WA-08) and cosponsors Adam Smith (WA-05) and Jim McDermott (WA-07). An identical bill to protect Illabot Creek (H.R. 829) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Suzan DelBene with co-sponsor Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02). 
The Wilderness Society is hopeful that both bills will move in the House of Representatives this year and we'll see passage of the bills into law.