Murray, Larsen refile wilderness area bills -- CONGRESS: Lawmakers say proposal is innovative because it's "hands on."


February 20, 2003


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The Associated Press


Washington, D.C. - Undaunted by past failures, two Democratic lawmakers have renewed efforts to create the first wilderness area in Washington state in nearly two decades.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, filed bills Wednesday to create a Wild Sky Wilderness in Snohomish County northeast of Seattle.

The Senate approved the Wild Sky bill in November, but the measure was not taken up on the House floor. In a surprise vote, the bill cleared the Republican-controlled House Resources Committee last fall.

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The proposed wilderness, on 106,000 acres north of U.S. Highway 2 in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, would have been the first new wilderness area in Washington state since 1984.

Murray and Larsen said they came close last year and hope to get it through both chambers this year.

"This beautiful area (would) be protected for future generations to hike, fish, ride, camp, climb and enjoy the great outdoors," Murray said in a news release. "I hope that the new (Republican) majority (in the Senate) and the entire Washington delegation is working to preserve this area for the people of our state."

Larsen called the proposal innovative.

"In the past, wilderness has meant 'hands off,' but Wild Sky was designed to be 'hands on,' " he said, adding that the proposal is designed specifically for families and sportsmen.

Conservation groups said they also are optimistic the proposal can be enacted.

"Protecting the Wild Sky is what Washingtonians want, it's what our delegation wants and Congress now needs to act quickly to protect this special landscape in our back yard," said Jim Young, Sierra Club's Northwest representative.