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
- Olympic Wilderness
- Stephen Mather Wilderness
Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2008
Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Wild and 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.
The Wild Olympics Coalition today cheered the reintroduction of the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries, a total of 464 river miles, as Wild […]
Today 17 organizations signed onto a comment letter coordinated by Washington Wild supporting the expansion of the Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) by nearly 3,000 acres. The Morning Star is the only NRCA located within Snohomish County and lies adjacent to the recently designated Wild Sky Wilderness. This expansion would effectively extend the […]
After 10 years, Snohomish County Public Works released for public comment a long awaited Environmental Assessment to repair the popular Index-Galena Road. This paved route served as the primary access point to dozens of trailheads, campgrounds and whitewater access points along the North Fork Skykomish River before it was severely damaged by flooding in 2006. […]