U.S. Senate Gives Unanimous Thumbs-Up to Alpine Lakes Protection
SEATTLE – Unanimous Consent – that's what local conservationists have been pining for, and on Thursday that's the approval the U.S. Senate granted to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Rivers Protection Bill.
Tom Uniack, conservation director of Washington Wild, says Thursday's action by the Senate puts 22,000 acres of wild forest, next to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, one step closer to Wilderness Protection.
"It's a great recreation area 40 minutes from Seattle and Puget Sound,” he says. “It's basically halfway to becoming law – and this current congressional session is only one quarter of the way over."
Alpine Lakes has been a federal Wilderness Area since 1976, but some lawmakers have expressed opposition to expanding wilderness protections in general.
Uniack is optimistic the House will start working on the measure as early as next month.
Thomas O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater, thinks momentum is now strong behind the measure, because citizens and lawmakers are realizing the impact outdoor activities have on the state's bottom line.
"I think so,” he says. “I mean when you look at just sort of the economic contributions of the outdoor recreation economy here in Washington State – that's $22.5 billion annually for the state's economy and a quarter of a million jobs."
In addition to helping to protect fisheries, Uniack says the measure would also protect low-elevation forest, which historically has missed out on wilderness protection.
"You're actually protecting multi-season recreational opportunities,” he says. “Those types of trails that you can actually access with your families spring, summer and fall – and that really is what defines the quality of life here in the Pacific Northwest."
The measure is Senate Bill 112.