The U.S. House of Representatives today approved an omnibus public lands bill which includes a provision to preserve Green Mountain Lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
The bill passed by the House on a 220-194 vote contains the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act sponsored by Democratic Reps Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen of Washington. President Barack Obama, who opposes the bill, did endorse the section calling for preservation of Green Mountain Lookout.
While DelBene and Larsen secured the provision in the bill, DelBene voted against the legislation.
DelBene discussed her decision in a floor speech.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great frustration, and must oppose the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act in its current form.
“This bill is a merger of ten public lands and natural resources bills, all of which are unrelated to each other, and many of which would ignore the best available science, compromise the stewardship of our public lands, and completely disregard bedrock environmental laws that have served to protect our environment and cherished open spaces for decades.
“That being said, there is one part of this bill I do support. Buried in Title VI of this bill is the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act which I introduced with Congressman Larsen and Senators Murray and Cantwell.
“Green Mountain Lookout, located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, was built in 1933 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project to detect fires and spot enemy aircraft during World War II. The lookout is an important, historic, and unique part of the Pacific Northwest. It is a popular destination for hikers and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Unfortunately, severe weather caused Green Mountain Lookout to fall into disrepair in 2001, and the U.S. Forest Service began taking steps to preserve the historic structure for future generations. However, an out of state group filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service for using machinery to conduct these repairs, and unfortunately, a U.S. District Court ordered the Forest Service to remove the lookout.
“My bill would allow critical and routine maintenance while keeping this iconic structure where it is meant to be, in its original home. Local governments in the area, my constituents, as well as a number of environmental and historic preservation groups support my bill to keep Green Mountain where it is. And the House Natural Resources Committee agrees; they passed this bill unanimously last year. And why wouldn’t they? This bill is common sense and saves us money because it would actually cost MORE money to move the lookout than to just keep it where it is.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that had this bill been brought up on its own, by its own merits, it would have passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support.
“Unfortunately, that is not what happened here today. Instead, this bill has gotten wrapped up with a series of very controversial, divisive bills.
“Green Mountain Lookout represents a significant piece of the Pacific Northwest’s history and it deserves to be protected for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy in the years to come.
“It does not deserve to be wrapped up in a package of bills that we all know will be dead on arrival in the Senate. The Administration has also voiced its support for keeping Green Mountain where it is, while strongly opposing the rest of this bill.
“Green Mountain deserves its own vote, and I am extremely disappointed that my amendment to separate my bill from the rest of this package was denied a chance to be considered today. The way this piece of legislation was handled is emblematic of the dysfunction that’s so prevalent, and so unnecessary, in Congress today. The people of Washington state expect Congress to make progress, and they expect compromise, not partisan exercises that won’t make it to the President’s desk or achieve a meaningful result. I’m deeply disappointed that that’s what today’s bill is, and I know that many of my constituents are as well.
“It is still my hope that I will be able to work with my colleagues from across the aisle to consider the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act as a standalone bill before it is too late. The need for immediate action is great, because if the lookout is moved once, there’s no moving it back.
“It’s simple, taking care of our environment is critical to protecting the quality of life we cherish. I cannot, in good conscience, support this bill due to the many other harmful measures that are included in this package.”