Greenway backers to Congress: Get a move on
Designating the I-90 corridor’s Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area would seem like a no-brainer, recognizing 20 years’ successful work to keep the highway through Snoqualmie Pass from being a mountain slum.
The bipartisan legislation to create a National Heritage Area has languished in the House Natural Resources Committee since introduced last spring by U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
The holdup is curious: A Washington Republican, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, chairs the committee. The panel is also sitting on a bipartisan bill to protect the Middle Fork-Snoqualmie River and add a wild King County valley to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.
A petition with more than 1,000 name has now delivered a message to the U.S. House of Representatives: Get a move on.
“We are thrilled to see such a broad representation of people who live, work and play in the Greenway supporting this important legislation,” said Cynthia Welti, executive director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway.
In the mid-1970′s, the corridor through Snoqualmie Pass was in danger of becoming a mountain slum.
Vast clearcuts intruded even in such popular recreation spots as the Lake Margaret trail. The last old growth forests were vanishing. Sprawl threatened not only views but key wildlife corridors.
The Greenway has since taken shake, uniting ex-combatants in the state’s wilderness wars and local officials on both sides of the “Cascade Curtain.” Wildlands, working farms and forests and prime wildlife habitat has been protected on the doorsteps of America’s 15th largest metropolitan area.
The Heritage Area designation would give national recognition, increasing the visibility of the Greenway and adding to resources needed to preserve it.
Leighanna Driftmier, an aide to Reichert, said Friday: “The Congressman is very optimistic about this bill. Chairman Hastings has indicated that the Committee will be moving on a number of pending conservation bills in 2014 and this bill, as well as Alpine Lakes, is definitely worthy of action.”
Reichert has been working on the Alpine Lakes legislation for more than six years. He was able to get it through a Democratic-controlled House in 2010. It died in the Senate’s pre-adjournment rush.
The Heritage Area designation is backed by Gov. Jay Inslee, State Land Commissioner Peter Goldmark, liberal King County Council members and conservative Kittitas County Commissioners.
Until recently, the Washington congressional delegation had a half-century tradition of respecting wishes of local House members on land use decisions. Reichert and Reps. Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith, D-Wash., who represent the I-90 corridor, all support the Heritage Area.
Hastings is, however, an ultraconservative who has displayed unrelenting suspicion and hostility toward any wilderness and national monument designations.
At an Issaquah meeting announcing the National Heritage Ara proposal, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash. — who secured federal dollars to buy up threatened land in the I-90 corridor — urged citizens to make their feelings known to Hastings.
In large numbers, they’ve now done just that.