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EFFORTS to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are under way in Congress again, with strong local and bipartisan support.

The legislation reintroduced last week by U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would add 21,000 acres to the nearly 400,000 acres that now make up wilderness area. In particular, the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie rivers would be designated as wild and scenic.

Reichert and Murray are joined by co-sponsors Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina.

Reapportionment moved the boundaries from Reichert’s old district into the 1st Congressional District of newly elected DelBene.

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Reichert’s sustained support for the proposed addition to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is important for success. The Republican-controlled House has been very skimpy with wilderness designations.

A boost from Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, would be welcome.

The Alpine Lakes expansion enjoys extraordinary local and bipartisan support. The wilderness area, created by Congress in 1976, offers accessible, lower-elevation delights for families year-round.

The new legislation, which stalled in past congressional sessions, has hundreds of supporters, including elected and former officials, local businesses, outdoor-recreation businesses, hunter and angler groups, recreational groups, conservation organizations and a broad spectrum of religious leaders.

Alpine Lakes tops lists of most-visited wilderness areas because of its proximity to cities. This vast space is virtually an urban amenity, greatly valued for its beauty, vistas, recreation, wildlife and clean water.

Reichert’s persistence is key, and stands out in a time of political gridlock in the nation’s capital.

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