Wild Sky bill has Sax worried - The Republican county councilman will testify this week before Congress

By Jim Haley
Herald Writer


Snohomish County, WA - Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax will travel to Washington, D.C., to register his concerns about the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness in eastern Snohomish County.

His office Friday said the councilman will testify Thursday before the House Natural Resources Committee, which for more than a year has held up movement on the proposal to permanently protect more than 100,000 acres of mountains and forests north of Index and the town of Skykomish.

"It's an honor to represent the county and our concerns before Congress," Sax said in a statement. "I look forward to talking to the committee and our delegation to seek resolution about issues that have been raised" about the proposal.

Sax said one of his chief concerns is that the wilderness will attract millions of visitors each year, and the only highway leading to the area - U.S. 2 - is already congested and unsafe.

"There are multiple issues related to congestion, repair and safety already in the (U.S. 2) corridor. Increased traffic without remedying the situation is a recipe for disaster," Sax said.

Sax said he was invited to testify by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

The hearing was set earlier this month when Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., went to the chairman of the House Resources Committee asking for movement on the bill, which has been stalled in the House but has been approved by the Senate.

Nethercutt's staff and those of the two prime sponsors hammered out some changes in the bill, eliminating some areas where there are roads and reducing the proposal from 106,000 acres to 103,000 acres.

Nethercutt, however, didn't get any promises from committee chairman Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., that the bill will be moved out of committee for a vote.

Nethercutt's move came in the midst of a Senate election campaign. The Spokane Republican is running against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who sponsored Wild Sky in the Senate.

Sax and the two other Republican Country Council members earlier expressed reservations about the wilderness proposal, which was sponsored by a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, a former County Council member from Lake Stevens.

They sent a letter to Pombo raising concerns, and then voiced them in guest newspaper editorials. Of the original 106,000 acres, they rely on U.S. Forest Service data saying about 16,000 acres is unsuitable for wilderness designation.

Much of that is in low elevation forests that have been used for mining and timber cutting in the past.

While the three Republican members of the council have opposed passage of the Wild Sky bill in its present form, the two Democrats have supported it.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.


from WA Farm Bureau newsletter


SNOHOMISH COUNTY COUNCILMAN JEFF SAX IS EXPECTED TO TESTIFY BEFORE the House Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C., Thursday about the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness Area. (Everett Herald, July 19) Sax said he has several concerns, including the impact that the wilderness designation could have on U.S. 2, the only highway leading to the area, which is already congested and unsafe. He also said 16,000 acres of the 106,000-acre area does not meet the criteria for wilderness designation. Sax, a Republican, and two other GOP members of the council oppose the proposal as it now stands. They recently sent a letter voicing their concerns to Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Two Democrats on the county council support the proposal. Meanwhile, both of Washington's senators and seven of its nine representatives sent a letter to Pombo Monday urging Pombo to pass the Wild Sky bill out of committee. (Everett Herald, July 20) Republican Reps. George Nethercutt and Doc Hastings did not sign the letter.



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