Mountains to Sound seeks federal title

May 14, 2013

By Peter Clark

A newly announced bipartisan bill that would designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust as a National Heritage Area might have a bumpy road to climb.

U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert held a press conference April 30 to announce his co-signage and support for House Bill 1785, which he introduced April 26. The bill, if passed, would give the title of National Heritage Area to the 1.5 million acres of land that stretches from the Yakima Basin to the Puget Sound.

“There is no other heritage designation in the state of Washington. This would be the first,” he said to a crowded room of leaders and greenway supporters at the King County Library Service Center in Issaquah. “I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to put my name on this legislation.”

National Heritage Area designations are meant to promote a region’s natural, cultural and historic resources, and building public awareness and protection. Bill Chapman, president of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, also spoke of the civic participation it would encourage in an already involved local public.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful day for the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust,” he said. “Already our reality has exceeded our vision. It was not by accident that I-90 does not look like I-5. Official recognition of the greenway will sound the horn on the special connections we have with our natural world here and will help cement the cooperative nature that the greenway trust exemplified, and it will be necessary to keep the greenway through many generations.”

In his introduction of Reichert and what the bill meant for the future of the trust, Chapman demonstrated the prevalence of the green space popularity by inviting those present who had hiked on the trails to stand. Only a few of the gathered remained seated.

Among the many supporters of the legislation is the King County Council, which delivered a letter in support of the bill to Congress. Metropolitan King County Councilmen Reagan Dunn and Larry Phillips released a statement following the press conference.

“We applaud and thank Congressman Reichert for sponsoring the legislation supporting the Mountains to Sound Greenway. He has been a staunch advocate for this important and unique piece of land,” it read. “This distinction demonstrates the national significance of this unique landscape, while not affecting private property, water, hunting or fishing rights, or adding any new regulatory authority.”

Although the bill has widespread appeal, it was acknowledged in the press conference that difficulties existed on passing it through the House Committee on Natural Resources, stemming particularly from the chairman, Eastern Washington Rep. Doc Hastings. Concerns were expressed in the press conference about Hastings’ potential reluctance to bringing the legislation forward for a vote, but Reichert said he was confident he could sway the 4th District representative’s vote.

“I’ve been working closely with the chairman,” Reichert said. “I gave it to him and said, ‘This is critical information you need to read.’ I’m the squeaky wheel on this thing. It’s my job as your representative to try and adjust his position. It might take me a while, but we’re not going to give up.”

He spoke to all of those in the room about the 20 years of protection that the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust had given to the land already.

“Today, I appreciate all the gratitude, but I’m really here to say thank you to all of you who have put in so much effort and so much work,” Reichert said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to get this done.”

The House Natural Resources Committee will take up the bill for discussion and make the decision on whether it comes to the floor for a vote.

 

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