Expansion of Alpine Lakes Wilderness Passes

Expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres, as well as the designation of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic have officially passed! What a way to end 2014 - the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act!
Katherine Hollis Katherine Hollis
December 12, 2014
Expansion of Alpine Lakes Wilderness Passes
Mt. Stuart from Ingalls Lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Photo: Ben Gardner

It’s happened!

The expansion of the Alpine Lake Wilderness has passed both the House and Senate! More than 22,000 acres of rare low-elevation forest land adjacent to existing Alpine Lake Wilderness will be designated as Wilderness, as well as the designation of more than 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and 10 miles of the Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic. This is BIG NEWS for Washington conservation and recreation!

We have been involved in supporting this work for years and are thrilled that is has passed before the end of 2014. Just an hour’s drive from the Seattle metropolitan area, the Alpine Lakes additions provide meaningful human-powered recreational opportunities that appeal to a wide range of residents and visitors alike, while also protecting lower-elevation ecosystems as Wilderness.

How did this finally get passed? Through some rare bi-partisan work, a number of public lands bills were added to a defense package (the National Defense Authorization Act) that passed in the House last week and the Senate today. During the current Congressional session, both pieces of legislation were the subject of congressional hearings, passed through the key natural resource committees and passed the Senate before being included in the current authorization bill.

The primary conservation and recreation pieces of this bill for us in Washington State include:

    • Expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area (just outside of Seattle) by 22,000 acres
    • Designating the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers as Wild and Scenic
    • Designating Illabot Creek (a tributary of the Skagit River) as Wild and Scenic
    • Redrawing Wilderness boundaries to allow rebuilding of Stehekin Road in North Cascades National Park

goat alpine lakes wildernessThese bills have been pending in Congress for years but local support for them has been building for decades. For example, legislation to designate Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River has garnered support from local elected officials, businesses, sportsmen and adjacent land owners. Wild & Scenic designation would protect stream flows and important spawning habitat for iconic Northwest salmon species in this creek which flows into the Skagit Wild & Scenic River — a premier recreational destination and highly important watershed for salmon recovery. 

“Representatives Reichert and DelBene are continuing the bipartisan work that started with the original Alpine Lakes Wilderness designation in 1976,” said Ben Greuel, Washington State Director of The Wilderness Society. “These bills permanently protect wildlife habitat and places to experience our great outdoors in Seattle’s backyard, strengthening local economies and enhancing quality of life for countless Washingtonians.”

What a great way to finish off 2014, which marked the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act!

If this work is important to you let our legislators know by sending them a thank you!