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Legislators announce wilderness bills

Local legislators are pushing forward with their bid to expanding wilderness areas in the Valley's vicinity.

Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Dave Reichert, joined by Senator Maria Cantwell and Washington State Congressmen Jay Inslee, Brian Baird, Adam Smith and Jim McDermott, introduced bills in the Senate and House that would expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and designate both the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act will expand the existing wilderness by over 22,000 acres to include important lower-elevation lands and complete watersheds.

Murray and Reichert, who fielded questions on a conference call, described the wilderness expansion as a bipartisan effort.

Murray said passage of the bills faces an uphill fight, but hoped to see action this year.

”Conservation and preservation of our natural resources reflects the values I grew up with," Murray said. "I want to leave the same kind of legacy for my grandson and for future generations to enjoy.”

The Wild and Scenic designation would permanently protect the rivers' water quality, ecological values and free-flowing character.

The laws would also protect lower-elevation lands in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, allowing more people to experience those areas.

Reichert unveiled the plan in 2007. He said he's excited to see Murray and others support the effort.

"We must do our part to preserve land, not just in faraway places, but in our own backyard," Reichert said.

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