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Finally! Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions Bill Heads to House Floor for a Vote

Posted by Andrea Imler at Jul 31, 2014 04:15 PM |

For the first time in four years, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361) was heard -- and passed -- in the House Natural Resources Committee.

For the first time in four years, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361) was heard -- and passed -- in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions only 30 minutes from Seattle area

The legislation would expand the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness by 22,000 acres and protect 10 miles of the Pratt River and 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Only a 30-minute drive from Seattle, the proposed additions offer year-round recreation in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River area. The bill has been championed by Congressman Dave Reichert since it was first introduced in 2007 and is cosponsored by Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. In a joint statement Reichert and DelBene stated:

“Protecting this area for recreation and tourism opportunities is one of my highest priorities and I am pleased to see the Natural Resources Committee take this step to moving the Alpine Lakes legislation closer to law,” said Reichert. “Since this issue was first brought to my attention in 2006, I have refused to give up on working to ensure that the Alpine Lakes area receives the recognition and protection it deserves. Not only is this area an elegant, natural gem of both the state and the nation, it supports local economies and creates jobs. I want our children and grandchildren to enjoy everything Washington State has to offer, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one the best and most beautiful legacies we can leave them.”

“With today’s passage of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness expansion bill out of the House Natural Resources Committee, we are one step closer to protecting one of the most popular wilderness destinations in the country,” said DelBene. “While I am concerned with some of the changes made to the bill today, this will not be the final version that the president signs into law. Expanding the Alpine Lakes is crucial in supporting outdoor recreation, which generates $22.5 billion in consumer spending each year and is responsible for 227,000 jobs in our state. A short drive from downtown Seattle, countless residents and tourists visit the Alpine Lakes to camp, fish, hunt, hike and enjoy some of the most spectacular views that Washington has to offer.”

Controversial amendments added to House bill

While the bill passed the House committee, it did so with two boundary adjustment amendments. The most controversial of these is a deletion of hundreds of acres of low-elevation forest land between the recently constructed Pratt Connector Trail and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

WTA and other supporters of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions bill view these acres as critical to safeguarding recreation and protecting habitat in the Pratt Valley.

Additional language was added to the bill relating to military overflights, wildfire and buffer areas that proponents of the bill deemed unnecessary.

Next Steps for Alpine Lakes

The bill can now move to the House floor for a vote. The Senate version of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions bill (S. 112) passed the Senate in 2013, with the leadership of the bill's sponsor, Senator Patty Murray, and cosponsor Senator Maria Cantwell. If the House passes the bill as is, with the amendments, the two bills must be reconciled before Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions becomes law.

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