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In Our View: The spirit of the '64 Wilderness Act


Do not touch that lookout

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Thanks to an insensible lawsuit, the Green Mountain fire lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is a verb. "Green Mountained," enviro absurdity visited upon the (mostly) innocent.
A cascade of events, culminating in a 2012 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to remove the historic structure, does violence to taxpayers, to common sense and to conservationists who understand the legislative history of the 1964 National Wilderness Act.
As The Herald's Gale Fiege reports, the U.S. Forest Service's court-compelled scoping report recommends the use of a helicopter to relocate the lookout to Circle Mountain in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The back story is instructive: Restoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps-era gem in 2002 technically violated the Wilderness Act because workers used motorized equipment. Sanctioning a rule-bending Forest Service seems appropriate. Instead, the Court's remedy -- tear it down -- stood logic on its head, a solution in search of a problem. The latest strategy is to employ a chopper in violation of the Wilderness Act to uphold the Wilderness Act. (Beware: Restore by the helicopter, die by the helicopter.)
U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene are having none of it. Along with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, they have introduced legislation to put the kibosh on removal. In a letter to Rep. Doc Hastings, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Larsen and DelBene observe, "Moving the lookout would be an unnecessary and costly expense, putting further financial burden on an agency already contending with challenging budget constraints. "
Congressional sources say the price will far exceed the $100,000 estimate. No small figure in the sequester era.
The cattywampus logic of political fundamentalists values means over ends, consequences be damned. A spokesman for the plaintiff, Wilderness Watch, is OK with violating the act in order to uphold it. Kevin Proescholdt, the organization's conservation director, told Fiege, "Our focus is restoring Green Mountain to wilderness condition." Alas, he just undermined efforts to preserve America's last wild places.
The wilderness gospel, enshrined in the Wilderness Act, points to an area where the earth and its community of life are "untrammeled by man." That passage, conceived by Seattle's Polly Dyer, was never meant to blunt proposals such as, for example, the Wild Sky Wilderness, where the human hand is visible. The debate was settled in the 1970s with passage of the Eastern Wilderness Act, in a floor exchange between Sen. James Buckley and a Northwest lawmaker.
Let history and prudence prevail. Don't touch that lookout.

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