Legislative push on to create Wild Sky Wilderness

The Olympian


WASHINGTON -- A bill to create a wilderness area on 106,000 acres north of U.S. Highway 2 would protect wildlife and promote clean water and recreational opportunities, supporters said Wednesday at a public hearing.
But foes decried the proposal as unnecessary and even destructive. Much of the area targeted for protection is not even wilderness, they said, adding that the plan had not received enough scrutiny as powerful lawmakers try to ram it through Congress.

The proposed Wild Sky Wilderness, on land north of U.S. 2 in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, would be the first new wilderness area in Washington since 1984.

The measure is being pushed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., following efforts by both lawmakers to get a similar bill approved last year.

The Senate approved the Wild Sky bill in November, but the measure was not taken up in the House.

Murray, in testimony to a Senate committee Wednesday, said the bill was the result of more than two years of negotiations with local officials and a range of groups, including the Washington State Snowmobile Association, Wild Washington Campaign, Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and the Seaplane Pilots Association.

Murray and other supporters listed a host of benefits, including protection of wildlife such as bears, wolverines, bald eagles, spotted owls and deer, as well promoting clean, cool water for salmon, steelhead and trout.

Ed Husmann of Sultan, a member of the Snohomish County Farm Bureau, said much of the area targeted for designation as wilderness does not meet the definition.

"This legislation is actually aimed at creating wilderness where one does not currently exist," Husmann said. "If the point is to provide access to scenic points, or build trails, or save the trees, it does not take designating a wilderness area to do so."


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