Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray announced that legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and federally designate both the Pratt and stretches of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic has passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Senate Bill 112, The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act, was introduced by Senator Murray and cosponsored by Senator Cantwell (D-WA). It would expand the existing wilderness area by more than 22,000 acres to include important lower-elevation lands and watersheds.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Dave Reichert (WA-08), and is cosponsored by Representatives Adam Smith (WA-05) and Jim McDermott (WA-07).
"Today we moved one step closer to expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and ensuring this pristine landscape will be preserved as a legacy for generations to come," said Senator Murray. "I am so proud that after years of effort, this legislation has passed the Senate. This designation will allow our children and grandchildren to experience these special places in their natural state. Washingtonians are fortunate to have permanently protected national gems like the Alpine Lakes, and this legislation will help preserve an area cherished by so many, and will help bolster the recreational economy. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to ensure these important protections are finally signed into law."
"The Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation just 45 minutes from Seattle," said Senator Cantwell. "Areas like Alpine Lakes help make Washington state unique, and draw visitors and talented workers to our communities. Wilderness areas also ensure the supply of clean water and vibrant wildlife populations. I am proud that the Senate acted today and put the preservation of these lands one step closer to the President's desk."
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 Alpine Lakes legislation include:
Providing the protection of the Wilderness Act of 1964 for lower elevation lands, bringing a richer diversity of ecosystems such as deeply forested valleys into the wilderness area, increasing its overall biodiversity. The addition of these lower elevation lands will also protect a broader array of outdoor recreational opportunities that will be easily accessible for wilderness enthusiasts.
Designating the entire Pratt and sections of the 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 otherwise unheard of so close to a major urban center.
Following a long-fought victory to create the Wild Sky Wilderness in 2008, Senator Murray has continued a Washington state 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. Legislation has been introduced in the 111th, 112th, and 113th Congresses and has faced partisan opposition in the past.
Having passed the Senate, the bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.