Wild Sky proposal to rise again in Congress



SEATTLE, WA– An environmental group on Thursday began airing 30-second spots on local television stations aimed at boosting support for a proposal to create the first wilderness area in Washington state in 20 years.

The proposal to create a the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness area near Washington’s Skykomish River Valley will be resurrected after a bill to do the same died in Congress last year, according to Jon Owen, a spokesman for the Wild Washington Campaign, the group organized to lobby on behalf of the wilderness area.

Three members of Washington’s congressional delegation – Sen. Patty Murray and Reps. Rick Larsen and Jennifer Dunn - have already indicated they will co-sponsor the measure in the 108th Congress, Owen said.

The wilderness area is unique because 30 percent of its acreage exists below the 3,000-foot elevation level, making it more attractive for other potential uses, logging in particular. Across the state only 6 percent of the total area of wilderness is below 3,000 feet.

That piece of the package is what generated opposition last year when the Oregon-based American Forest Research Council argued that the some of the lower elevation acreage should be removed from the area.

The lobbying group is expected to push this year for boundary changes to the proposal.

Some lawmakers and the Bush administration have also argued that some of the lands previously were logged or disturbed when backcountry roads were built and don't qualify for protection under the federal Wilderness Act.

Supporters of the measure say it's already the product of two years of negotiation involving many of the stakeholders in the plan.

When it was first introduced last year, the proposal included wilderness designation for 120,000 acres, but some area was excluded to make room for snowmobiling, which is not allowed in wilderness areas.
Under federal law, logging, roads and commercial enterprises are banned from wilderness areas, although hunting and fishing is allowed.

The $20,000 television ad campaign will run over the next couple of weeks and depicts a family hiking in the area and urges Congress to approve it and citizens to log on to the Web site for the Wild Washington Campaign.


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