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A new study shows health disparities cost Texas billions of dollars; Senate rejects impeachment articles against Mayorkas, ending trial against Cabinet secretary; Iowa cuts historical rural school groups.

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The Senate dismisses the Mayorkas impeachment. Maryland Lawmakers fail to increase voting access. Texas Democrats call for better Black maternal health. And polling confirms strong support for access to reproductive care, including abortion.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Alpine Lakes Bill Takes Another Step

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Thursday, July 31, 2014   

SEATTLE - Legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area near Snoqualmie Pass has been inching its way through Congress for about seven years, but there was good and bad news for Alpine Lakes fans and supporters on Wednesday.

The bill (HR 361) was approved with a group of other public lands measures by the House Natural Resources Committee, but was amended to remove about 600 acres from protection - including low-elevation forestland - and to allow military flyovers and logging, termed "mechanical thinning," for wildfire prevention.

Tom Uniack, conservation director for Washington Wild, says the changes weren't necessary, and some run counter to the aims of the bill.

"Legislative language has been added, much of which doesn't apply to our bill, like overflights and some really aggressive wildfire language," says Uniack. "And there are some concerning amendments that would really weaken the Wild and Scenic River protections for the two rivers in the bill."

The Senate has already passed Alpine Lakes legislation without amending it, so the differences between the two bills will now have to be negotiated. Uniack says it's unlikely that will happen this week, but he credits Congressman Dave Reichert for getting the House version of the bill this far. The amendments were made by the House committee chair, Congressman Doc Hastings.

Uniack says the reasons for expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness by 22,000 acres are underscored by the area's proximity to Seattle. The Wilderness has long been one of the most popular recreation destinations in the state, so protecting it and ensuring public access are dual challenges. Overall, Uniack says, conservation groups see this week's committee vote as a step forward.

"This bill has all the local support you'd want, from over 300 elected officials, sportsmen, faith leaders, local businesses," he says. "Wilderness bills - and laws themselves - really take a long time to pass, but we feel like it's definitely worth the effort and the wait."


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