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Public Statements

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about my bill, S. 112, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. I have introduced similar legislation in previous Congresses; in fact, this is the third time I have made a legislative push to protect these treasured spaces. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, for the first time, and I wish to thank my colleague from Oregon for all his tremendous work to get a package of public lands bills through the Senate for the first time in over 4 years.

Passage of this bill is a tremendous step forward and is the result of over 5 years of work by me, my staff, and Congressman Reichert, who has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives several times, and Congresswoman DelBene, who now represents the lands this bill would protect. We are fortunate to have bipartisan support for this effort, and we are fortunate as Washingtonians to have unique and beautiful natural landscapes that deserve protection from unrequited development and pressure.

This legislation would protect, in perpetuity, over 22,000 acres and provide the protections of the Wilderness Act to a richer diversity of ecosystems and lower elevation lands. These protections will ensure diverse recreational opportunities and protect one of the closest blocks of wild forests to an urban center in the country.

As I mentioned, Congressional action on public lands have been stymied in recent years. I was pleasantly surprised we were able to find a path forward, and today I wish to confirm my support for tribal treaty rights and for access to these spaces to be designated as wilderness for traditional uses by tribal members. I firmly believe the Federal government has a responsibility to uphold the treaties signed by our predecessors with Native American tribes--a fact that has been upheld by the Federal courts. As the author of this legislation I want to reaffirm that regarding lands defined within the bill located in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, nothing in this act alters, modifies, diminishes, or extinguishes the treaty rights of an Indian tribe with respect to hunting, fishing, and gathering rights as protected by a treaty.

Again, I wish to thank Chairman Wyden and ranking member Murkowski for working together to find a path forward to protect public spaces. And I wish to thank Senator Cantwell for her steadfast support of this proposal. I look forward to working with my House colleagues to protect this important landscape.

I thank the Chair.

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