Wednesday, September 22, 2004

wilderness law test

Today's a fairly big deal for those concerned about either preserving or making use of America's wilderness. The House is going to vote on a plan to extend federal protection over an area (about 100,000 acres) called Wild Sky here in western Washington. At stake is whether the 1964 Wilderness Act, which contains a mandate to protect "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man", should be applied only to unsullied land. To some, that means: build one logging road, one fire tower, and its open season on that section of land.

What that would mean to all of us is that any land that has been used, for any reason, can never be reclaimed.

Unfortunately, it's more complicated than that. The issue is also being used as an electioneering test case for Representative George Nethercutt (R-Spokane), who's running for senate against incumbent Patty Murray (D-WA). Not normally a fan of wilderness, Nethercutt, faced with courting the far more liberal west side of the state for the first time in his career, has promised to achieve what state Democrats have not against a Republican-controlled House (or more accurately, against the new chair of the House Resources committee). Nethercutt's plan, which not surprisingly is almost worse than useless, is somewhat more likely to pass than the Dem bill, but only if he can convince his Republican colleagues to cave on principle in order to give him a slogan for his Senate campaign.

The Seattle Times: Local News: Dueling Wild Sky plans headed to House panel

The Seattle Times: George Nethercutt in the Wilderness

Everett Herald: Celebrate Wilderness Act's Anniversary