Wild Sky Wilderness could be downsized

  • A CHILD OF COMPROMISE: Merchant Peak, above Eagle Lake, in the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness

    Mark Lawler
  The Wild Sky Wilderness may become a little less wild if the timber industry has its way.

Had Congress approved the Wild Sky Wilderness Act during the fall legislative session, it would have designated 106,000 acres of wilderness in the valleys of the Cascades north of Seattle (HCN, 6/24/02: A wide-angled wilderness). Although U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pushed the bill through the Senate, House leaders broke early for the holidays before voting on it.

This year, the bill’s sponsors will have to start from scratch — and its supporters are worried it won’t survive a new round of negotiations in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Chris West, vice president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, says timber companies are looking forward to another crack at Wild Sky. The industry is loath to lose timber it claims is scheduled for harvest under Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan, and it also wants about 30,000 acres of the proposed area exempted from wilderness protection.

The bill’s sponsors remain optimistic, but are not anxious to see it back on the negotiating table. “The Wild Sky legislation is already the product of a tremendous amount of negotiation and work with a number of local interests,” says Todd Webster, a spokesman for Murray.