Photo Credit: Ray Lapine

Congressional Hearing on Greenway Heritage Area

For the first time since 2014, the U.S. House’s Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on designation of the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area. This is a critical step towards passing legislation in this Congressional session.

The latest round of bipartisan legislation to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area was reintroduced in spring 2017. Senate Bill 713 was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and H.R. 1791 was introduced by Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith. These latest bills included feedback and improvements from previous versions, including clarifying important protections for private property rights owners and tribal treaty rights.

Wednesday’s hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony from Congressman Reichert as well as former Washington Senator Slade Gorton. Written statements were submitted by the Greenway Trust, the Wilderness Society, Outdoor Alliance, and King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, son of the late U.S. Representative Jennifer Dunn. Several members of the King County Council, who happened to be in Washington D.C. at the time, also attended the hearing in support of the Greenway National Heritage Area.

The broad, bipartisan backing for this legislation reflects its overwhelming support from across our region.

We greatly appreciate the championship of Congressman Reichert, who worked closely with Republican leadership to move this bill through the hearing. National Heritage Area designation presents a special opportunity to strengthen our local economy, conserve our spectacular opens spaces, and empower local communities to play a part in taking care of our region’s future.

There are still several hurdles before the Greenway National Heritage Area is officially designated. The House bill will next need to go through mark-up, where committee members can offer amendments to the legislation. The marked-up bill would then be referred out of committee to be considered for passage by approval of the full House.

The companion bill in the Senate, S.713, is currently awaiting floor action as a part of the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, having advanced through the Senate committee process last year.

The Greenway Trust and many partner organizations that make up the Greenway coalition are actively working with our Washington State Congressional delegation to pass both bills by the end of this congressional session in December. Sign up for Greenway News or follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.


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Greenway National Heritage Area

Our region is a model for thoughtful growth: on the doorstep of our cities we have spectacular open spaces and world-class recreation. We celebrate a deep heritage of collaboration and creativity, coming together as a community to ensure that a vibrant economy and healthy wild spaces can be nurtured in concert, not in conflict.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of our congressional champions, Senator Cantwell and Congressman Reichert, to create the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, highlighting our region’s heritage and resilience.

Designating the Greenway is more important than ever. Seattle is one of the fastest-growing major cities in the nation, as people move here for the combination of economic opportunity and natural beauty that sets our region apart from all others. National Heritage designation will help ensure the Greenway remains a special place to live, work, and play for generations to come.

The outpouring of support from Greenway residents over the last six years has been inspiring. More than 6,600 endorsers say it loud and clear: our region is iconic and precious, and our way of working here—bipartisan efforts, creative problem solving—are truly a model for the rest of the nation.

Many lands bills fail because they have limited local support or fail to generate bipartisan sponsorship. The Greenway NHA legislation stands out from the rest because it has broad support from residents, businesses, and government agencies; and strong congressional champions. It has been one of the few lands bills in the country that has passed favorably out of both the House and the Senate committees in recent years. In a challenging climate for public lands legislation, this gives us hope.


Why Designate?

When we are connected with nature, our lives are better. The Mountains to Sound Greenway offers world-class recreation on spectacular public lands and waters, right on the doorstep of our urban areas. This high quality of life makes us healthier and happier, and helps attract tourism and top employers that keep our economy strong. Designation of the Greenway National Heritage Area would recognize these strengths and allow the Greenway to serve as a national model for collaborative conservation.

National Heritage Area designation provides a non-regulatory approach to conservation and will not affect private property, water, hunting, or fishing rights. Learn more about the campaign.


Our Journey over the Last Six Years

Greenway National Heritage Area legislation was originally introduced six years ago by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith. A strong showing in our first congressional session saw us in the mix in the final days, but at the end, we just missed being included in the final lands package approved by Congress. It was a similar story in our second congressional session, which ended last December. Moving anything in Congress is a challenge and federal land designations often take many years to achieve. The designations of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the North Cascades took decades—great achievements often do.

Greenway designation has strong, bipartisan support in Congress and has been endorsed by more than 6,600 businesses, governments, non-profits, and individuals, including Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Outdoor Alliance, Microsoft, Expedia, REI, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mountaineers.