Today, Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04) introduced three pieces of legislation important to Washington state that provide recreational access, tourism and fishing opportunities. The bills will be referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where Hastings serves as Chairman. All three of Hastings' bills passed the House of Representatives with broad, bipartisan support in the 112th Congress (2011-2012), but the Senate failed to take a vote on the bills.
H.R. 1156 renews efforts that would allow the National Parks Service to relocate and rebuild the Upper Stehekin Valley Road in the North Cascades National Park. Over time, floods and the changing path of the Stehekin River has critically damaged significant sections of Stehekin Road. The Road occupies a narrow corridor within the borders of the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area. Congressional approval is required to modify the corridor prior to the National Park Service rebuilding the road.
"Stehekin Road was specifically protected when the Park and Wilderness areas were created, because of its value to local residents and tourists," said Hastings. "For many years, Stehekin Road has been maintained and run by Park officials, but following extreme flooding and subsequent changes in the course of the river, much of it is now under water. My bill simply gives the Park Service the ability to restore the damaged sections of the road, while maintaining the integrity of the wilderness area surrounding the only route through the park for residents and visitors alike. A promise was made and it must be kept."
Hastings' bill would adjust the wilderness boundary for the sole purpose of rebuilding the closed section of road away from the Stehekin River, provided there is no net loss of wilderness acreage.
Hastings' second bill, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act (H.R. 1158), would allow the practice of fish stocking in North Cascades lakes to continue, a tradition that has been in place for more than a century, and which long predates the establishment of the National Parks Service. Without this legislative authority, the National Park Service has stopped and will not continue fish stocking.
"After years of consultation with local leaders on this issue, it is clear to me that communities in and around the North Cascades National Park Complex want fish stocking to continue," said Hastings. "Fish stocking has encouraged tourism, recreation and the economy in these communities for over a century. Although I believe the National Park Service already has the authority to do this under the act that established the park in 1968, the Park Service is requiring further clarification from Congress."
Hastings' bill would permit the stocking of up to 42 of the lakes that have historically been stocked with fish located in the North Cascades National Park Complex. The Complex includes the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The lakes in question are home to many recreational activities and draw Park visitors from around the state, region and beyond.
In addition to the 112th Congress, both the Upper Stehekin Valley Road Access bill and the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act passed the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress (2009-2010), but again were not voted upon by the Senate.
Hastings' third bill, the Rattlesnake Mountain Public Access Act (H.R. 1157), would allow public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain located on the Hanford Reach National Monument in Benton County, Washington. Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior responsible for managing the Hanford Reach National Monument, has refused even limited public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain. Hastings' legislation would require the Secretary of the Interior to provide reasonable public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain in the Hanford Reach National Monument for educational, recreational, historical, scientific, cultural, and other purposes.
"As I've said many times, people are permitted to scale the top of Mount Rainier and they should have the opportunity to take in the sights from the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain," said Hastings. "Since the public owns these lands, everyone should be permitted safe, regular, and carefully managed access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain."
Under Hastings' bill, public access would include motor vehicles, pedestrians and other non-motorized transportation methods such as bicycles. The bill does not dictate how and when public access occurs, but does mandate that public access be permitted.