CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 1769 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) on March 26, 2009, to the House Committee on natural Resources. The Committee passed the bill by voice vote as amended on February 24, 2010.
H.R. 1769 would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the State of Washington by 22,173 acres. The land designated as wilderness would be administered by the Department of Agriculture in accordance with the Wilderness Act. The bill would also designate the Pratt River and Middle Fork Snoqualmie River in Washington as wild and scenic rivers. The area that would be designated as wild and scenic consist of a 27.4-mile segment of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River near the La Bohn Gap, and the entirety of the Pratt River.
Signed into law in 1964, the Wilderness Act defined federal "wilderness" as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." As the definition would suggest, federal wilderness areas are designated to preserve and protect federal land that has been determined to be especially pristine and untouched by human development. As such, use of national wilderness land is extremely limited. Wilderness land is generally accessible to the public for recreational activities such as camping, hunting, hiking, and fishing. However the use of any mechanized vehicles is strictly forbidden and new resource extraction such as mining, logging, oil and gas exploration, and drilling are prohibited. Because of these tight land use restrictions, some Members may be concerned that designating hundreds of thousands of acres as new wilderness land could impede American energy resource exploration and development in the future and potentially infringe on private property use within the designation.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness was originally designated by Congress in 1976. It sits 45 minutes east of downtown Seattle. The proposed wilderness additions, which total approximately 22,000 acres, are low elevation lands that provide important habitat for wildlife during times of the year when high elevation lands are covered by snow. Elk, deer, cougars, and bobcats all live in the mountain valleys that comprise the wilderness additions proposed by H.R. 1769. The bill would also designate 27.4 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and the entire Pratt River as wild and scenic rivers. In 1990, the U.S. Forest Service recommended these rivers for designation because of their outstanding recreation, fisheries, wildlife, and ecological values. The Pratt River is a major tributary of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, and both rivers are a source of clean water for the fisheries of the Snohomish River system.
A CBO score for H.R. 1769 was not available at press time.