By: Congressman Dave Reichert
October 2013 On September 28th, our nation celebrated National Public Lands Day, showing appreciation for all public lands that offer recreational opportunities to our families and an economic boost for our communities. Our great outdoor spaces and activities are one of the many benefits of living in this beautiful state. It is up to all of us to ensure that our kids and grandkids will continue to enjoy, and benefit from, these opportunities.
In addition to national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offer diverse experiences. These lands are set aside for multiple uses, so resources can be both utilized and enjoyed for their various values. Because of this, BLM lands give people from all walks of life the chance to fish in pristine trout rivers, raft through whitewater rapids, explore desert canyons, experience old-growth forests, interact with wildlife, attempt world class rock climbing and even hike rugged coastlines.
In 2006, I played a leadership role in establishing the National Landscape Conservation System Caucus, a bi-partisan group created to raise awareness in Congress of BLM’s work to preserve treasured landscapes within a National Conservation Lands system for generations to come. In 2009, I helped lead efforts to introduce and pass the National Landscape Conservation System Act, legislation which established a system of conservation lands comprised of national monuments, designated Wilderness, national conservation areas and Wild & Scenic Rivers under BLM management. This was a key step in establishing a conservation legacy for these lands.
Most recently, I have worked with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, and Senator Patty Murray who introduced a companion bill, on legislation to add 22,000 acres of underrepresented low elevation mature and old-growth forests to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361) would also protect nearly 40 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The Alpine Lakes legislation is important to Washingtonians because the Middle Fork and South Fork valleys are the closest and most accessible mountain valleys to residents of the greater Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area. The proposed additions have been carefully crafted with consideration for existing recreational opportunities for hiking, camping, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing.
The legislation will preserve important wildlife habitats, existing recreational opportunities, and local economies that rely on both. H.R. 361 builds upon the proud Washington State tradition initiated by Senators Warren Magnuson (D-WA), Scoop Jackson (D-WA) and Dan Evans (R-WA) of working together to protect our public lands and preserve recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. It also serves the larger group of wilderness users who take pleasure from the wilderness they view from the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, an extraordinary corridor of protected federal, state, and private lands offering all kinds of recreational opportunities to those who travel across our state on Interstate 90, which crosses the Cascades just south of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Those who savor the wild scenery from more developed sites and roadways are no less users of wilderness than the adventurers who trek to the highest, farther peaks.
Protecting and conserving our natural gems is not the prerogative of any one party. Many understand that there is a lesson to learn and a legacy to be passed on to our children and grandchildren by making sure that they are able to enjoy the same opportunities to explore their surroundings and the natural beauty of their home nation just as my generation was able to. We should all continue to take advantage of this privilege. Our nation has some of the most diverse and beautiful lands in the world. The outdoors is our heritage and it is common sense that we work together to protect it.
As a grandfather, I understand that what we do today will impact the environment that future generations live in. The world we leave behind will be the world in which our grandchildren’s children will live their lives, amid whatever kind of landscape we have left. Count mine as one solid voice on behalf of ensuring that the landscape we pass on to future generations is one with an abundant, generous and diverse system of natural landscapes equal to those that we enjoy and benefit from today.
Dave Reichert is the Congressman representing Washington’s 8th Congressional District.