SEATTLE - A planned expansion of Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Area has received a stamp of approval from the U.S. House. Legislation
sponsored by Republican Congressman Dave Reichert was approved Thursday.
The bill would add 22,000 acres to Alpine Lakes, including some
low-elevation forests that are home to cougars, black bears and trout,
as well as prime recreation zones.
John Chelminiak, North Cascades Initiative director for The
Wilderness Society, says the original Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area
has proven to be one of the most popular in the country, and there are
some less obvious benefits that are important.
"The wild lands of the North Cascades are critical to the municipal
watersheds that serve our cities. Making sure that those lands are
conserved and allowed to filter that water into our water systems,
really is an economic benefit to the rest of the community."
Adding to the wilderness area has strong support from local communities
and both sides of the political aisle, says Chilminiak.
"Designations like this are important both ecologically and for the
economies of the area. Things like fresh water, municipal watersheds,
tourism, and the ability to bring money into some of these gateway
The bill would also protect stretches of the Pratt and Middle Fork
Snoqualmie Rivers. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate,
sponsored by Washington Democrat Patty Murray.