Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray announced that legislation she re-introduced this year to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and designate both the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic has passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Murray's bill, S. 112, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act, would expand the existing wilderness by over 22,000 acres to include important lower-elevation lands and watersheds.
Senator Patty Murray introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year along with Senator Maria Cantwell. The bill has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Dave Reichert (WA-08), Adam Smith (WA-05), and Jim McDermott (WA-07).
"Committee passage of this legislation today brings us one step closer to improved protections for the Alpine Lake wilderness area that will preserve this cherished natural resource for generations to come," said Senator Patty Murray. "I was proud to join with Congressman Reichert to introduce this bill, and I will continue working with local stakeholders and my colleagues in Congress to sign this important legislation into law."
The existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976 by the late Congressman Lloyd Meeds and is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country. It is one of the closest blocks of wild forests to an urban center in the country and provides diverse recreational opportunities. Key elements of the new Alpine Lakes legislation include:
Providing the protection of the Wilderness Act of 1964 for the lower elevation lands, which will bring a richer diversity of ecosystems, including deeply forested valleys, into the wilderness area and increase its overall biodiversity. The addition of these lower elevation lands also has the direct effect of protecting a broader array of outdoor recreational opportunities easily accessible for wilderness enthusiasts.
Designating the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic, which would permanently protect the rivers' free-flowing character, water quality and outstanding recreation, fisheries, wildlife, geological and ecological values. This designation provides for many recreational activities including unique backcountry hiking, kayaking, and white water rafting that is unheard of so close to a major urban center.
Following a long-fought victory to create the Wild Sky Wilderness in 2008, Senator Murray continued a tradition of collaboration to help protect public lands. Murray held meetings with stakeholders and a public workshop early in 2009 to discuss the wilderness proposal and hear local community input on the legislation. As a result of those meetings, Senator Murray introduced companion legislation in the Senate and both versions of the bill include the new addition of Wild and Scenic designation for the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.
Having passed the full committee, the bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.