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Old 04-04-2014, 01:52 PM
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jim putman jim putman is offline
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WILDERNESS: Senate passes bill preserving historic lookout, but bid to protect Mont. watershed fails
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
E&E: Friday, April 4, 2014
The Senate yesterday by unanimous consent passed a bill to preserve a historic lookout in a Washington state wilderness area, but a Democratic senator was blocked in his bid to protect a prized watershed west of Glacier National Park.
The chamber passed S. 404 by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which would exempt the Green Mountain Lookout from the 1964 Wilderness Act, thus sparing it from a court's order to tear it down.
The bill, which is sponsored in the House by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), has splintered the conservation community, earning support from groups including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wilderness Society but scorn from hard-line wilderness groups that argue it sets a dangerous precedent for the protection of backcountry lands.
"The Green Mountain Lookout is more than a hiking destination; it's part of the Pacific Northwest's heritage, and it's a cherished, historical landmark," Murray said yesterday in a statement. "Today's unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to do that makes this an historic day, bringing us one important step closer to protecting this landmark for generations to come."
Murray said the House next week is expected to take up DelBene's bill, which has earned praise from key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
One of a small number of fire lookouts in the West, the Green Mountain cabin was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and later served as a lookout for aircraft during World War II.
The Forest Service led significant repairs of the structure over the past decade, but it was sued in 2010 for conducting those activities in a designated wilderness, where permanent structures and motorized equipment are prohibited.
Though the structure was originally built before the area became wilderness, a judge said it must be moved.
Proponents of the lookout have said Congress must act quickly.
"The need for immediate action is great, because if the lookout is moved once, there's no moving it back," DelBene told a House subcommittee last summer.
George Nickas, the executive director of the Missoula, Mont.-based Wilderness Watch, which filed the lawsuit, said last year that Congress is bailing out the Forest Service for "knowingly, willingly" breaking the law.
Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) was less successful in his bid to pass S. 255, which would prevent future mining claims and oil and gas leases in Montana's North Fork Watershed, thus preserving roughly 350,000 acres.
The House passed by voice vote a nearly identical companion bill last month by Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and the proposal carries strong local support both from conservation and business groups. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill last summer by voice vote.
Walsh's request to advance the bill was objected to by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Walsh said Toomey joined senators from Texas and Oklahoma in opposing the bill's passage.
"Montanans have worked for more than 40 years to protect North Fork but Washington politics have stalled it once again," Walsh said in a statement through his campaign, urging Daines to pressure his Republican Senate colleagues to stand down.
Daines is challenging Walsh for his seat in November.
"If Congressman Daines truly believes this is the right thing to do, he can join us in calling on his friends to stop blocking this vote," he said.
Daines spokeswoman Alee Lockman said the congressman is hopeful Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will make floor time for the bill, like the House did.
"Steve has been working on the North Fork bill with Republicans and Democrats since he was elected to Congress," she said. "We were able to successfully pass it through the House through regular order. We are hopeful the Senate can do the same ... and get this bill done for the people of Montana."
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Old 04-04-2014, 03:43 PM
Art Waugh Art Waugh is offline
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Funny- Wilderness Watch accusing the USFS of "knowingly breaking the law, when they probably campaigned to get it locked up, knowing it was there, and Congress DID lock it up, knowing it was there, in violation of the Act, being a "substancial sign of man". All of them are in violation.

I a way, kind of glad it stays, not many of them left, and as long as they do the restoration with hand tools and work, and pack in materials and supplies by man or horse/mule, I don't have an issue. Been there for 80 years.
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