At Washington Wild, we work hard to protect our state’s magnificent Wilderness Legacy for generations to come. Seattle ranks #1 among the 25 largest U.S. cities for having the most Wilderness within a 100 mile radius, totaling 3.6 million acres! True to our mission, our work spans all of Washington State and ensures that our beautiful corner of the world stays wild and green by protecting federal wild lands and waters.
In 1964, the United States Congress passed a law known as The Wilderness Act, which created a National Wilderness Preservation System to provide an “enduring resource of wilderness” for future generations. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on September 3, 1964. According to the Wilderness Act, Wilderness “…in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized 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.”
Wilderness is only applicable to federal land and is also unique in that only Congress can designate areas for Wilderness use and protection. The tradition of protecting wilderness dates back almost 100 years to the country’s foremost conservationists Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold to name a few who recognized the need to set aside America’s wild places in order to preserve our watersheds, wildlife habitat and the great outdoors from the ever-growing spread of development and commercialization. However, the formal designation of Wilderness began with the passage of The Wilderness Act in 1964. Click here to read more.
The Next Generation of Wilderness
On the shores of Lake Wenatchee in 1999 at a wilderness community retreat organized by Washington Wilderness Coalition, local activists and wilderness advocates began to plan for the “next generation of Wilderness” in Washington State. The Wild Sky Wilderness had a unique focus on preserving low elevation forests and watersheds that were left out of the significant Wilderness that was designated in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, of all the national forest Wilderness previously designated statewide, only 6% was low elevation (i.e., below 3,000ft).
Essentially, the timber industry (at their peak then) utilized their political clout precluding much of any old growth and mature forests (which are found at lower elevations) to be protected. The Wild Sky proposal set out to change that by literally moving those previous wilderness boundaries “down the hill.” As a result, a full 30% of the proposal included low elevation forests. These lands represented protection for low elevation mature and old growth forests, prime wildlife habitat including salmon spawning streams and multi season family accessible recreational opportunities. Building on the success of Wild Sky, 50% of the proposed additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and 75% of the proposed Wilderness in the Wild Olympics included low elevation forests.
Washington Wild’s Wilderness Legacy
Since our founding in 1979, Washington Wild has played an integral role in the protection of nearly 3 million acres of Wilderness throughout Washington State, including:
1984 Washington Wilderness Act
Washington Parks Wilderness Act of 1988
Mount Rainier Wilderness
Stephen Mather Wilderness
Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2008
Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Wild & Scenic Rivers Protection Act of 2014
Wild & Scenic River Protection
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to ensure that the free flowing character, water quality and outstanding values of these rivers are protected for generations to come. The Act is notable for recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development by encouraging river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection. According to the Wild and Scenic River Act, ”certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.“
Wild rivers give us clean water, world-class recreation and unmatched opportunities for inspiration and solitude connection to nature. They bring jobs and economic benefits to local communities and they provide critical habitat for salmon, steelhead, and other fish and wildlife. Click here to read more.
In 2008, Washington Wild led an effort to focus local Wilderness advocates on the opportunity to protect Wild & Scenic Rivers as part of ongoing and future campaigns to designate new Wilderness areas. Consider that Washington had only 200 designated Wild & Scenic Rivers compared to Oregon’s 2,000 miles. This river renaissance resulted in the designation of more than 50 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Pratt Rivers and Illabot Creek in 2014 and the introduction of more than 450 miles of proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers into Congress.
Washington Wild joined 14 other groups on a letter to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest raising concern for the redevelopment of the Excelsior Mine. In addition to opposing new road building in an Inventoried Roadless Area, the project could have potential negative impacts on Spotted Owl critical habitat and riparian reserves.
Recently there has been a push to institute day use permits in the Enchantments, located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and one of the most popular destinations for hiking in Washington State. Overnight permits are already required for trips in the area to mitigate recreational and ecological impacts to the fragile alpine environment. Washington Wild […]
Today, Washington Wild was one of 25 local businesses, recreation and conservation groups who signed a comment letter to the Bureau of Reclamation for a water project taking place within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Groups expressed concern that the proposed project requires more substantive review and should be considered in the same analysis as several other […]