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New effort underway to preserve Mountains to Sound Greenway

By Josh Kerns
MyNorthwest.com
MyNorthwest.com - When you get on I-90 and head east from Seattle, it's hard not to be taken with the beauty all around you. And some local leaders and volunteers are trying to get Congress to help keep it that way.

When you get on I-90 and head east from Seattle, it's hard not to be taken with the beauty all around you. And some local leaders and volunteers are trying to get Congress to help keep it that way.

Washington Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith recently introduced a bill designating 1.5 million acres stretching from east of the Cascades to the Puget Sound a National Heritage Area.

It's known as The Mountains to Sound Greenway. It encompasses everything from vast forests and meadow-strewn mountain peaks of the Cascades, to farms, rural communities and vibrant cities, all under a broad umbrella aimed at preserving our area's "living heritage," says Cynthia Welti, Executive Director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

She says the goal is simple: "To keep the cities in the cities and forests in the forests."

For 20 years, the organization has brought together a diverse group of citizens, agencies and businesses to conserve natural resources, promote recreation and education and encourage sustainable, growing communities.

The mix can seem contradictory, but Welti says there's a way to balance all of the divergent interests in our area for a common good.

"We work with partners in three ways. The first is bringing land into public ownership, the second is to enhance them and restore lands, the third way is working with agencies and citizens," Welti says.

The group tries to stay out of politics as much as possible. It works with environmentalists and developers alike.

"We pull people together and find common ground, because we all love this area here, our way of life."

"Already our reality has exceeded our vision," said Reichert at a recent event announcing the legislation. "It was not by accident that I-90 does not look like I-5. Official recognition of the Greenway will sound the horn on the special connections we have with our natural world here and will help cement the cooperative nature that the Greenway Trust exemplified, and it will be necessary to keep the Greenway through many generations," he said.

National Heritage Area designation would increase funding opportunities, broaden public awareness and remove barriers for state and federal officials to work together on everything from habitat restoration to recreational policy on public lands.

But Welti says just as important, it wouldn't add any new regulatory authority or restrictions on private lands, add any federal oversight over local management decisions or limit other property rights.

"We want to see working forests. We want to see smart, thoughtful development. We want to see people using our wonderful spaces. We want to preserve our special landscape. And through our work, we can do all that."

Bonneville Seattle, The Seattle Seahawks, Les Schwab Tire Centers and Carter Subaru are proud to honor The Mountains To Sound Greenway as our "Charity of the Month." Learn more about the Greenway here.

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