State's 'Wild Sky' area nears U.S. protection



Snoqualmie, WA - The vast expanse of wilderness in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest known as "Wild Sky" is one step closer to federal government protection.

The U.S. Senate passed the Wild Sky wilderness proposal in a late-night session yesterday. The House could vote on the proposal later this week.

The plan, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would protect 106,000 acres, including scarce lowland old-growth forest north of Index near Stevens Pass. The proposed wilderness area is home to bears, northern spotted owls, cougars and mountain goats.

Wild Sky would become the first new wilderness area in Washington in 18 years should the measure gain House and presidential approval.

The proposal is sponsored by Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., in the House. Larsen's aides were unavailable for comment last night. It was unclear whether the House intends to put the measure to a vote.

National wilderness areas offer the highest level of protection for federal lands. In addition to stopping logging and other commercial uses, the designation puts wilderness off-limits to vehicles, including bicycles and snowmobiles.

"Wild Sky represents a wonderful opportunity for hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, rock-climbing and other recreation," Murray said after the vote. "I hope the House will do the right thing for Washington's future and pass this important bill."

Some environmental advocates were worried that the Wild Sky legislation, which took long hours of political negotiations to carry forward, would have been lost in the shuffle that occurs after a national election, especially since Democrats will lose control of the Senate next year.


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