Bipartisanship. Like ice box and typewriter, its use is a betrayer of age. Polarization is the status quo. Partisanship — consider the British Parliament, with hidebound Laborites and Tory MPs always on script — now subsumes the U.S. Congress.
There are exceptions, often centered on America’s natural heritage. A promising example arose last week as Republican Rep. Dave Reichert teamed again with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to reintroduce the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. Despite the arresting title, the proposal is relatively modest. The legislation would add approximately 30 miles of the Snoqualmie River and 10 miles of the Pratt River to the National Wild and Scenic River System. It would also protect 22,000 acres of wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.
The bill shot through the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, but it was blunted in the U.S. House, as Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, averse to the “wilderness” moniker, sandbagged it.
This year could be different, with the legislation serving as a template for bipartisan cooperation. Rep. Reichert is pushing its passage, despite no longer representing the proposed wilderness area. His loyalty and judgment are admirable. The proposal’s rivers and landscape occupy the newly drawn First Congressional district, home to Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene. The freshman lawmaker first ran for Congress in 2010 but was defeated by Reichert. Notwithstanding their political history, DelBene and Reichert have paired, rivals laboring across the aisle to establish a legacy that could last forever. (If, miraculously, the DelBene-Reichert example is replicated, Congress may inch up the respectability meter.)
Northwest history illustrates that in matters of natural heritage, the best politics is no politics.
Former Republican Gov. Dan Evans was an advocate of North Cascades National Park in the 1960s and was instrumental in convincing President Ford to sign the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Act in 1976. Evans’ one gripe about Alpine Lakes? It wasn’t big enough.
The late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a powerful backer of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act, gave expression to the Teddy Roosevelt-conservation wing of the Republican Party. The enviro honor role includes former Republican Secretary of State Ralph Munro and former Rep. Sid Morrison. Conservation and the economic windfall of recreation consistently align with the values of Republicans and Democrats. Nature is nonpartisan.
The additions to the Alpine Lakes reflect a groundswell of support, including over 100 local businesses in the Snoqualmie River Valley and 150 hunting, fishing and recreation leaders. We hope that common sense prevails, that the Murray-Reichert-DelBene effort sets a new tone in the other Washington.