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It’s Official: “Wild Sky” is WA’s New Wilderness

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May 9, 2008

Seattle, WA – After seven years of debate in Congress, the Wild Sky Wilderness Act has been signed into law by President Bush. It creates the first new, federally protected wilderness area in the state in more than 20 years. Advocates for the protection had argued Wild Sky is unique because it includes lower-elevation land that might otherwise have been prime for development, and because so many organizations, from conservation groups to businesses and government agencies, worked together on the plan.

Michelle Ackermann, Northwest regional director of The Wilderness Society, says the new law means the area is safe forever.

"That area is now protected as wilderness, which is the highest protection that federal land can have. It's still administered by the Forest Service; it stays part of the Mount Baker-Snowqualmie National Forest. It just means that now, it's protected into perpetuity."

Just 90 minutes northeast of Seattle, the Wild Sky area is already a popular local weekend getaway spot, and Ackermann is convinced the new designation will bring increased economic benefits of tourism and recreation to the region.

"We know that so many people enjoy the place, and go there to visit and to be with their families while enjoying the spectacular beauty and outdoor activities. I think it's going to be a really exciting summer for the communities that are right around this special area."

Wilderness designation means no motorized vehicles are allowed on the 106,577 acres. The bill passed the House twice and the Senate four times before landing on the president's desk. Ackermann says several celebrations are being planned, starting the end of May, to honor those who worked on, and waited for, Washington's newest wild place.

The Wild Sky Wilderness Act, HR 886 and S 520, was part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, S 2739.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA