Today, the House Natural Resources Committee passed legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) to make Wild Sky the first new Wilderness Area in Washington state in over twenty years. The next step will be a vote on the floor of the House.
“We’ve reached the pinnacle of a long hike,” said Larsen. “Getting Wild Sky legislation through the House Natural Resources Committee is like arriving at the summit of Mount Fernow. I’m looking forward to the celebration at the end of the trail.”
“I stated earlier this year that Wild Sky was the highest wilderness priority for the Natural Resources Committee. I am pleased that the Committee favorably reported this measure at its first business meeting, and commend Rep. Larsen for his diligent work in seeing that this wilderness area is protected for future generations to come,” said U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“I’ve seen firsthand the beauty of this wilderness from the summit of Mount Baring and I’m proud legislation to protect it cleared an important hurdle today,” said House Natural Resources Committee member and Wild Sky cosponsor U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) during the panel’s proceedings today. “Finally, the will of Washingtonians is prevailing.”
Larsen and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) first introduced legislation to make Wild Sky a National Wilderness Area on May 29, 2002. In the 107th, the 108th and the 109th Congresses, the bill passed the Senate and enjoyed broad bipartisan support but failed to make it through the House.
Murray and Larsen carefully crafted this legislation with years of input from constituents and local stakeholders including Snohomish County, the local Forest Service, Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, local tribes, Washington Snowmobilers Association, Snohomish County Emergency Responders, backcountry horsemen and the Washington Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. Larsen and Murray also held public meetings in Index and Monroe.
The Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2007 will designate over 106,000 acres of national forest in east Snohomish County as wilderness. In the past, wilderness has consisted solely of old growth forest at higher elevations. Wild Sky represents a new approach by protecting thousands of acres of low-elevation old growth and 25 miles of salmon streams while still making the land available and accessible for recreational use.
The area is located within 90 minutes of 2.5 million people.