Washington Representatives with History Look Forward in Bipartisan Wilderness Bill

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
September Bipartisan Champions: Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA)

This month, BPC highlights Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Dave Reichert’s (R-WA) work on a natural resources and wilderness bill, and the interesting path that led the duo to draft it. H.R. 361, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act, was introduced by Rep. Reichert in January 2013 and has been co-sponsored by his once former congressional opponent, Rep. Suzan DelBene. The two faced off in 2010 for Washington's 8th congressional district seat, which Rep. Reichert won. In 2012, Rep. DelBene went on to win the seat of the newly-drawn 1st congressional district of Washington, allowing the two to work as colleagues, reaching across the aisle to form solutions for their home state.

As proponents of wildlife preservation, Reps. DelBene and Reichert have sought to protect the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, designated by Congress in 1976 and known as one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country. Their legislation proposes a 22,000-acre expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, including important lower-elevation lands and complete watersheds. It would also designate the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as wild and scenic rivers.

“The Alpine Lakes legislation is an important effort to preserve one of Washington State’s most valuable pieces of natural and cultural heritage. Bipartisan work on issues like this have long been a legacy of our State, and I am pleased that Congresswoman DelBene joined me in continuing it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of aisle as we continue to work on this legislation and on other issues in the future.”

“The collaboration between Congressman Reichert and myself on this legislation continues a long tradition of bipartisan support of the responsible stewardship of Washington state’s public lands. It began with Senators Scoop Jackson and Warren Magnuson, followed by Senators Dan Evans and Slade Gorton,” said DelBene. “In honor of this legacy, I’m proud to work with Congressman Reichert on this important legislation to expand what is one of the most popular wilderness areas in our entire system. Just 45 minutes from downtown Seattle, Alpine Lakes is enjoyed by countless Washington residents and visitors to hike, camp, hunt and fish in some of the most spectacular open spaces that our state has to offer.”

Reps. DelBene and Reichert were encouraged when House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman and Washington colleague Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) took up the bill at a July hearing.

Progress continues to be made on turning the bill into law. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has worked with Reps. DelBene and Reichert to introduce S. 112, the senate version of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. The Bipartisan Policy Center recognizes Reps. DelBene and Reichert as September’s Bipartisan Champions for reminding us that forming solutions to issues that move our nation forward should always take precedent; no matter how strong the river’s current of partisan politics may feel.

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From the Americans with Disabilities Act to Campaign Finance Reform to No Child Left Behind and more, many significant legislative achievements have been successful due to cross-party collaboration. Rather than lamenting cooperation as a relic of days gone by, the Bipartisan Champions series will highlight current lawmakers who are working across the aisle and getting things done. By showcasing those who are putting partisan differences aside in order to put national interests first, BPC hopes to encourage more of this activity among our elected leaders in Washington, DC.

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