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Pratt River wilderness proposal gets second look

Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray launched a “public process” this month to explore ways to make the Pratt River Valley a federally-protected wilderness — an idea initially proposed by Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.

Murray’s office told the Snoqualmie Valley Record that no timeline exists for introducing legislation.

In 2007, Reichert introduced a bill to add the Pratt River to the existing 393,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Congress excluded most of the river, which feeds into the Snoqualmie River’s middle fork, when it protected the lakes area in 1976. His proposal would add more than 22,000 acres and protect nearly 10 miles of the river as a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River.

The proposal is supported by several conservation and recreation groups, including Washington Wilderness Coalition and American Whitewater. The state has very little protected land in low-elevation valleys, such as the Pratt River valley. According to advocates, the valley has ecological value, is a fishery resource and offers recreational opportunities, such as hiking and kayaking.

Reichert, a Republican, could not find any cosponsors for his bill among his six Democratic colleagues from Western Washington. Democrats made an unsuccessful attempt to unseat him in a previous election cycle.

With the election behind him, Reichert has already gained Democratic Reps. Jay Inslee, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, Norm Dicks and Brian Baird as co-sponsors of his preserve-the-Pratt River legislation, which must be resubmitted for the 111th Congress.

Aides to Murray held a working meeting earlier in February with stakeholders on the Pratt River valley’s future. A second meeting was held in Snoqualmie on Tuesday, Feb. 17, after the paper went to press.

Murray’s office is pursuing a process similar to the one used during creation of the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in eastern King County. After the House passed the legislation in 2007, Murray pushed it through the Senate last year.

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