The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in the central Cascades could be expanded by 22-thousand acres if legislation introduced in Congress gets a fighting chance this session. Similar bills have come up several times in past years, but never quite managed to make it through both the House and Senate. It's a mystery to some, because the idea has strong local support and the backing of Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Dave Reichert. This time, Tom Uniack of Washington Wild says there's even more bipartisanship on display.
The Alpine Lakes expansion hasn't gotten much attention in a Congress with many other pressing issues – and in the last session, a stubborn aversion to passing any new wilderness legislation. But Uniack says there's a better feeling about its chances this time.
The three introduced their companion bills last week, and the content is exactly the same as last session's legislation. Alpine Lakes has been a federal Wilderness Area since 1976. The expansion would add some lower-elevation land that's already a popular hiking destination, and also protect about 40 miles of the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers.