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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bill Protecting Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area Passes Key Senate Committee

Posted by: Amber Benson

Today, Senator Murray announced that legislation she introduced that would 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. 721, 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 was introduced simultaneously in the House by Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08), Congressmen Jay Inslee (WA-01), Brian Baird (WA-03), Adam Smith (WA-05), and Jim McDermott (WA-07).

“Today we have moved one step closer to new protections for the Alpine Lake wilderness area that will guarantee that this pristine environment is preserved as a legacy and 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 until this important legislation is signed into law.”

“Washingtonians are now one step closer to enjoying an expansion of one of the most visited wilderness areas in the United States,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “In addition to promoting clean water and supporting diverse wildlife species, these additions will support the local economy by enhancing recreational opportunities.”

“With this approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we are closer to protecting additional wilderness and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers,” Congressman Dave Reichert said. “I thank Senator Patty Murray for her leadership and diligent work on this bipartisan, consensus-based conservation effort. I’m pleased to see progress on our legislation continue, and will continue to partner with the Senator to protect these areas for generations to come.”

The existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976 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. Washington Wilderness Coalition played a key role in those meetings. 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.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Roadless Champions

Posted by: Michael Lanthier

Last week myself and Conservation Director Tom Uniack joined roadless advocates from across the country for a Roadless Summit at our nation's capital. Organized by the Pew Charitable Trust, the summit included scientists, economists, faith leaders, local elected officials and representatives from conservation as well as hunting and fishing organizations. It was an opportunity to better organize the efforts across the country to ensure protections for the almost 58 million acres of roadless national forest land.

It was also an opportunity to thank the many roadless champions in the House and Senate who have been instrumental in working towards finalizing roadless protections. Thankfully Washington State has two leaders on roadless. Rep. Jay Inslee and Sen. Maria Cantwell have led the efforts to introduce legislation to protect roadless areas. To thank them they were awarded Roadless Champion boxes with their picture (similar to the Wheaties box) at a breakfast reception. You can send a personal thank you to Cantwell and Inslee HERE.

While in Washington DC we met with our Washington State delegates to talk about current and future opportunities to protect our state's national treasures. We were joined by Tom O'Keefe from American Whitewater, a key ally from the recreation community.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wilderness Visions-30th Anniversary Dinner & Auction A Success!

Posted By: Lisa Syravong

Washington Wilderness Coalition celebrated our 30th Anniversary by hosting our 6th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction on Thursday, November 12, 2009. The event was well attended, with 135 guests and volunteers who gathered in celebration of the work being done to protect wilderness in Washington State. Held at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club in Ballard, guests enjoyed Northwest beer donated from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, wine from Chateau Ste Michelle and a delicious dinner catered by Apulent Catering.

WWC was pleased to welcome David Dicks, Executive Director of Puget Sound Partnership, as our keynote speaker. Mr. Dicks is leading the Partnership in an ecosystem-based approach that includes a clear focus on upper watersheds being vital to the restoration of Puget Sound.

Also in attendance were honored guests: Representative Norm Dicks (WA-06) and Suzie Dicks, and staff representatives from Representative Jay Inslee (WA-01) and Representative Dave Reichert (WA-08) who attended on behalf of the Representatives.

The event featured a keynote address by David Dicks, introduction of our new Board President, Barak Gale, by outgoing President Ted Whitesell, awards presentation, an inspirational, reflecting video featuring interviews by Doug North, Jon Owen & Ken Gersten.

The 30th Anniversary, marked the hard work and dedication of our co-founders, the late Karen M. Fant and Ken Gersten who began in 1979 with the idea of creating an organization to focus solely on protecting wilderness on public lands. To honor this, our history volunteer, Denise Ottoson, wrote a 30 page history of the organization.

WWC was pleased to present two awards this year. The Karen M. Fant Award was awarded to Connie Gallant, a Conservation Activist from Quilcene, WA. Connie Gallant was honored for her tireless work to protect the peninsula's treasures. Connie is an active member of a number of wilderness organizations, including the Olympic Forest Coalition where she serves on the board as Vice-President. Connie received an original black and white framed photograph donated by Steven Fey of Steven Fey Photography.

The New Conservation Voices Award was presented to Tom O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director of American Whitewater.
Tom is an expert in aquatic ecology, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge to the conservation community. He has worked with WWC on several ongoing campaigns, including the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation and the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative. Tom also received an original black and white framed photograph, donated by Steven Fey of Steven Fey Photography.

We were honored to have so many notable guests, members and supporters of WWC to gather in honor of the work being done to protect wild lands around the state. A very special thank you to our staff, Board of Directors, auction committee volunteers and the more than 15 volunteers who gave hours, and months. We would like to especially recognize volunteers Charla Sullivan and Kendra Wendel for their hard work in planning the auction throughout the year.

Thank you for celebrating 30 years of wilderness protection with Washington Wilderness Coalition!

Photo By: Adam Sanders, Frank Blau Photography