Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Senator Patty Murray's Statement On the Passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Bill

Mr. President, I rise to celebrate a tremendous and hard-fought victory. Today, a week after this Congress approved it overwhelmingly, President Bush signed the public lands bill that includes my Wild Sky Wilderness Act. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The path to creating the first wilderness in Washington state in more than 20 years has been long and sometimes rocky. But with the President’s signature today, we have finally reached the top. Let me tell you, Mr. President, it feels great!

This wilderness designation means that over 106,000 acres of rolling hills, rushing rivers, and low-elevation forest in the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will be preserved for generations to enjoy. The bill has been the result of years of hard work by literally dozens of people in my home state of Washington who have been as passionate and excited about this bill as I have been. I could not be more proud of their hard work and enthusiasm. Even when progress seemed impossible – they never lost sight of their goal. They always believed that preserving this incredible land was possible. And this beautiful new wilderness is their reward.

Mr. President, when I spoke on the floor after the Wild Sky bill passed this body, I promised to return once it was signed and thank the many people who have worked so hard with me over the years to make the Wild Sky Wilderness a reality. So I want to begin by thanking Congressman Rick Larsen. Nine years have passed since the first maps proposing this wilderness were unfurled at a meeting in my Seattle office. I’ve been working with Congressman Larsen in the House for more than seven years on the legislation. And I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

I’d like to thank Chairman Bingaman and his staff – especially David Brooks and Bob Simon – for their help and unwavering support of Wild Sky throughout the years. I’d like to thank Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Jay Inslee for their work in steering Wild Sky through their committees. And thank you to all of the cosponsors from the Washington delegation.

Above all, I want to thank all of the people in Washington state who worked tirelessly to turn their vision into legislation – and finally into law. The following individuals have spent countless hours to make the Wild Sky Wilderness Area a reality: Mike Town, Tom Uniack, Larry Romans, Mark Lawler, Harry Romberg, Norm Winn, Don Parks, Charlie Raines, Jon Owen, John Leary, Michael Carroll, Rick McGuire, Bill and Sue Cross, Bob Hubbard, Conway Leovy, Mark Heckert, Kem Hunter, Aaron Reardon, Peter Jackson, Michelle Ackermann, Jennifer Ekstrom, Doug Scott, Bill Arthur, Doug Walker, Nalani Askov, Dave Sommers, Jennifer Stephens, and Cynthia Wilkerson; as well as Shannon Harps and Karen Fant, whose memories will live on through Wild Sky.

And last but not least, I would like to thank the staff members who have also put their hearts and souls into this bill: John Engber, Karen Waters, Doug Clapp, Jaime Shimek, Jeff Bjornstad, Evan Schatz, Alex Glass, Pete Weissman, Matt McAlvanah, Rick Desimone, Rachelle Hein, Christy Gullion, Carrie Desmond, Jennifer Talhelm, Rita Beal, Shawn Bills, Jill McKinnie, Christian Gunter, Louis Lauter, Michael Dabbs, Kim Johnston, Brandon Hall, Amanda Mahnke, Charla Neuman, Abby Levenshus, Tracy Nagelbush, Amit Ronen, and Joel Merkel.

Mr. President, those of us who live in the Northwest are truly blessed to live so close to such breathtaking natural beauty. The people of Washington state have a great respect for our amazing natural heritage – and millions of people spend their weekends hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and rock-climbing in our many parks and wild lands.

 The Wild Sky area is already a popular destination – being enjoyed by hundreds people from across western Washington. And today’s wilderness designation means that their children and their grandchildren will be able to enjoy the land just as they do.

 Today’s designation is a gift to young families, lifelong outdoor enthusiasts, and everyone in between. And I am so glad to see this proposal over the finish line. Now – I can’t wait to lace up my tennis shoes and take those first steps into the Wild Sky Wilderness!