Green Mountain lookout bill up for vote in Senate

DARRINGTON — People concerned about saving the old forest fire lookout on Green Mountain in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest got a little hope in their Christmas stockings.

Just before federal legislators headed home for the holidays, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources decided to send the proposed Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act on for a vote by the full Senate.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell introduced the Green Mountain bill nearly a year ago, when Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene introduced companion legislation in the House.

In a statement from Cantwell’s office, the senator from Washington said she hopes the bill will clear Congress in the new year.

“For 80 years, this scenic lookout has stood atop Green Mountain,” Cantwell said. “Our bill would keep the (lookout) where it belongs, for Northwest hikers, historians and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. I will keep working with (Murray, DelBene and Larsen) to pass this bill into law.”

The lookout, located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the National Forest, is scheduled to be removed from the 6,500-foot mountain and placed eight miles away at the top of Circle Peak. This plan by the Forest Service follows an order by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to remove the lookout from the wilderness. The court sided with a lawsuit by Montana-based Wilderness Watch against the Forest Service for using a helicopter and other machinery, a violation of the federal Wilderness Act, to shore up the lookout during preservation work.

Wilderness Watch officials have said that the proposed bill would erode the intentions of the Wilderness Act.

After the Senate committee vote on Dec. 19, Kitty Craig, the Pacific Northwest regional representative of the Wilderness Society said she is eager to see action on the bill in the House and Senate and hopes that the bill will be on the president’s desk before the clock runs out for the 113th Congress.

“For decades, the Green Mountain Lookout has been a popular destination for hikers seeking to enjoy the impressive vistas and endless acres of wildflowers of the Glacier Peak Wilderness and experience the historic fire lookout,” Craig said.

Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the lookout predates designation of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to its history as a forest fire lookout, the Green Mountain lookout served as an early warning station to detect enemy aircraft during World War II. Until recently, the Forest Service still used the lookout to house seasonal staff who provided educational information to wilderness visitors.

“The Green Mountain Lookout provides important benefits to the education of wilderness visitors,” Craig said. “If Congress does not act by early 2014, the lookout will be removed or destroyed and we will lose a local wilderness treasure. Saving the lookout has broad-based community support.”

Supporters include the Darrington Town Council, Snohomish County Council, local businesses and volunteer organizations, the Washington Trails Association, The Mountaineers, Back Country Horsemen of America, National Forest Fire Lookout Association, The Nature Conservancy and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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