Larsen prods House leader on Wild Sky

By Jim Haley
The Daily Herald Writer


Everett, WA - A plan to permanently protect 106,000 acres of mountainous terrain in eastern Snohomish County fits the guidelines of the California congressman who controls whether the bill gets an airing, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen said Monday.

The Lake Stevens Democrat fired off a response to Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., House Resources Committee chairman. Larsen has been trying for a year to get a hearing in front of that panel to further establishment of the Wild Sky Wilderness north of Index and Skykomish.

The measure has been approved in the Senate, but has languished in the House. Pombo sent a memo to Larsen this month spelling out guidelines for moving wilderness laws through his committee. Among other things, Pombo called for broad support, examination of other uses of the land and review of plans to battle wildfires.

Larsen sent a seven-page response, along with an extensive list of public and private supporters, as well as opponents. His list includes 126 public officials who are in favor of Wild Sky and eight who oppose it.

The packet also includes about 100 samples of letters to the editor, editorials, articles and other materials written about the proposal, and a reminder that the Bush administration has said it would sign the bill if it gets through the House.

If Wild Sky passes, it would be the first wilderness established in the state in 20 years.

Larsen and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced identical bills in early 2003. Murray's bill got a committee hearing and passage by the full Senate, while Pombo hasn't called for hearings on wilderness legislation.

In a statement Monday, Larsen said: "Right now there is a glaring gap in meaningful conservation legislation coming out of the House of Representatives. Today I'm making the case to chairman Pombo that Wild Sky can fill that gap."

Larsen's move comes less than two weeks after Murray's opponent in November, U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, said he would introduce his own Wild Sky bill. The Spokane Republican proclaimed Larsen's bill dead and promised to introduce a new and better one.

Environmentalists on Monday called for the state's congressional delegation to back Larsen's version.

"Even chairman Pombo will have to acknowledge that the Wild Sky proposal is a painstakingly, carefully crafted compromise that has won incredibly broad bipartisan support," said John Leary of the Wild Washington Campaign.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or



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