Lawmakers lobbying for Wild Sky passage
Snohomish County, WA - Members of Washington's congressional delegation Wednesday put on a last-minute press with the House leadership to bring to a vote a bill that would carve out a 106,000-acre wilderness in eastern Snohomish County.
The bipartisan Wild Sky Wilderness measure is one of about 90 bills left on the table as the curtain falls on the current session of Congress, but state lawmakers are scrambling to get it to the floor for a vote Friday.
That effort became meaningful after the Senate Tuesday night unexpectedly approved an identical bill, making the last-ditch pitch for this session possible in the House, congressional aides said.
The problem is, House leadership has yet to agree to bring any more measures to the floor, and members appear bent on adjourning Friday.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., introduced the bill in the House, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced it in the the Senate.
"I came in today and found out Wild Sky is still alive," Larsen said.
The Wild Sky proposal has generated little controversy, mainly because legislators brought diverse interests together, said Jon Owen, field director for the Seattle-based Washington Wilderness Coalition.
"We're optimistic that this thing has a real chance in the House of Representatives on Friday," Owen said.
Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a Republican from east King County, could play a critical role in convincing the Republican-led House first to entertain more votes and then to bring Wild Sky to the floor, Owen said.
"Both sides of the aisle have a real interest in moving things forward by the end of the day Friday," Owen said.
Dunn aide Jen Burita said her boss has been in contact with House leadership to lobby for the Wild Sky legislation to come to the floor.
"It's an issue of running out of time, but we're doing what we can," Burita said.
The law would permanently protect the Skykomish River drainage north of Index and Skykomish, including numerous streams, rocky peaks, granite cliffs, hiking trails and some 80,000 acres of old-growth or mature forests now in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
It would be the first wilderness created in Washington since 1984, and is different than most others because it has about 14,000 acres of low-elevation forests where salmon spawn.
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