Senators hope to keep lookout

DARRINGTON — It’s about history, say Washington’s senators.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have introduced legislation that aims to protect and halt the removal of the historic Green Mountain forest fire lookout.

Located in the Glacier Peak Wildnerness of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the lookout has been the subject of a battle that started in 2010 when a Montana-based group filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service for using a helicopter to repair the lookout, in violation of the federal Wilderness Act. The Forest Service maintained that the lookout’s historical significance made it an allowable project in the wilderness.

As a result of the lawsuit brought by Wilderness Watch, the U.S. District Court in Seattle ordered the Forest Service to remove the lookout from the 6,500-foot mountain.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., introduced similar legislation in the House earlier this year.

In a statement released late last week, Murray and Cantwell, both Democrats, said the Green Mountain lookout is part of the Northwest’s vanishing heritage and is cherished by many people.

“This legislation would preserve a historic structure within the Glacier Peak Wilderness,” Cantwell wrote. “First built nearly 80 years ago, the Green Mountain Fire Lookout is a testament to the hard work of the Civilian Conservation Corps members who carried heavy parts up the steep mountain to construct the lookout.”

Earlier this year, the senators joined Larsen in sending a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking the United States Department of Agriculture to use all legal means to protect the lookout.

Larsen’s proposed Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act would amend the state Wilderness Act of 1984, allowing for the operation and maintenance of the lookout and preventing the Forest Service from tearing it down and carting it away.

George Nickas, director of Wilderness Watch, says the proposed legislation in Congress has the potential to set a bad precedent.

The Wilderness Act was established for the permanent good of all people, with wilderness set aside for future generations, he said, and such legislation just picks away at it, rendering the act a hollow promise.

Larsen believes it is as important to save the lookout as it was to save the Wild Sky Wilderness.

“Folks who live in Montana may not understand our efforts here to preserve federal land,” Larsen said earlier this year.

The Green Mountain lookout is one of the remaining 15 of the 90 forest fire lookouts that were built in the 1930s in the North Cascade Range. Along with its use as a key fire lookout in the logging heyday, Green Mountain also was an early warning station for aerial attacks during World War II. The lookout is on national and state registers of historic places.

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

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