Teddy Bear News

Wilderness bills for Washington and Arizona
Author: teddygirl | Wednesday October 17, 2007

The following is from Campaign for America's Wilderness, an organization that is working to achieve lasting protection for threatened wild lands.

As is tradition, Congress recessed for the month of August, halting legislative activity on Capitol Hill until policy-makers returned after the Labor Day weekend. Action outside Washington, D.C. on wilderness proposals took center stage and continued unabated during the break.

However, before Congress left town Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, took a major step toward protecting part of southern Arizona. Chairman Grijalva introduced the Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness Act (H.R. 3287), which seeks to permanently protect some 84,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest by adding more than 13,000 acres to the existing Pajarita Wilderness and creating the new 70,000-acre Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness just to the north.

The rugged canyons and rolling hills of the Tumacacori Highlands are among the most beautiful wild lands in the country. Chairman Grijalva has demonstrated great leadership, taking special care to reach out to the broad range of people, groups and federal agencies that have an interest in the Tumacacori Highlands. The Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness will be the first wilderness designation in Arizona since the bipartisan work of Mo Udall and John McCain led to enactment of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act seventeen years ago.

On August 8, Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) announced at a press conference on the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River his intention to introduce legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and protect the entire Pratt River as wild under Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Congressman then led those gathered on a tour of the area with several stops featuring local experts who discussed various characteristics of the surrounding forests and rivers.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness area was protected by Congress in 1976. The addition proposed by Congressman Reichert would add critical low-elevation forests to the original wilderness area. Of the 2.5 million acres of national forest wilderness, just 6 percent is low-elevation. These lush forests support robust populations of deer and elk, and are home to many bears, mountain goats, bobcats, cougars, martens, and beavers.

The Pratt River Valley is one of the only unroaded river valleys in the region. It is geologic marvel, dominated by native vegetation, and provides a unique backcountry kayaking and hiking less than an hour’s drive from Seattle. It was first recommended for wilderness by the Forest Service in 1990.

The relatively quiet month also gave Campaign for America’s Wilderness staff the opportunity to spend time in the field working on proposals and visiting the special places everyone is working so hard to protect. Staff traveled throughout the West, including Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Idaho. Each of these states have active campaigns on a number of wilderness proposals, all of which we look forward to seeing considered by Congress in the near future.

For more information, visit Campaign for America’s Wilderness' website.

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