Reposted with permission from The Mountaineers.
On August 15, The Mountaineers and other outdoor leaders were joined by Congressional staffers for a hike showcasing the Mountains to Sound Greenway: the scenic 1.5-million acre corridorstretching from the Seattle waterfront to Ellensburg, WA.
As staffers looked out on the tree-covered valleys framing Mount Rainier, they experienced the awe-inspiring Greenway, a landscape we are working to protect through National Heritage Area designation.
In many ways, the day was a story of two Washingtons – the beautiful state we’re trying to protect and the bustling capitol where our legislators work. The hike to Mason Lake served as a bridge. Staff from Senators Cantwell and Murray and Representatives DelBene and Smith all booted up for the journey into the Alpine Lake Wilderness.
CELEBRATING THE PAST
The excursion began with a nod to the area’s conservation legacy. At the trailhead we looked at two maps: one of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness prior to its 2014 expansion and one after. The current map speaks for itself. It features 22,000 acres of newly protected land (including a section of the Ira Spring trail to Mason Lake). The Wilderness expansion came after years of advocacy efforts from the outdoor community (that’s you Mountaineers!) and was made possible by legislation sponsored by Senator Murray. With the majority of designated Wilderness in Washington State covering high-elevations, this expansion was important to protecting lower-elevation ecosystems.
The hike culminated with a swim in Mason Lake, a much needed reprieve from the summer heat. While we simply wanted everyone to be able to experience an example of the public lands we work to protect, we also had conversations throughout the hike about current conservation issues. Read on for some of the highlights.
MOUNTAINS TO SOUND GREENWAY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA
National Heritage Area designation would help protect the 1.5 million acres of land making up the Greenway, extending from the Seattle waterfront to Ellensburg. The bill recently gained momentum with its first Senate committee hearing. The Greenway is home to so many of the places we play, from skiing, to hiking, climbing and biking. It’s a critical part of the heartbeat of the Puget Sound.
LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND
This federal land grants program benefits everything from remote wilderness areas to city parks, but is currently only funded for three years. The program has been critical for getting people outside both here in Washington and all over the U.S. We hope to see Congress secure its permanent reauthorization.
In an impressive show of support for outdoor recreation, The Forest Service recently announced new guidance to streamline the outfitter/guide permitting process. These permits are necessary for guided group trips, including those for youth and under-served communities. We appreciate that Mike Schlaffman, from Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS), carved time out of his schedule to come out with us. MBS is leading the country in approaching how to increase facilitated access.
Thanks to our partners at the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, REI, Washington Land Trusts and Outdoor Alliance for being a part of the hike!