On Monday, the glory of spring brought with it a promise kept to the people of Darrington: Washington’s U.S. House delegation shepherded and passed a Senate bill to preserve the Green Mountain lookout in the Glacier Peak National Wilderness Area.
The lookout may not heal hearts or repair a broken landscape. But it is a welcome news for a community in mourning.
“This lookout is a local landmark for the Darrington community and the Pacific Northwest, and is also a critical tourist attraction and economic driver in the region,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, said on the House floor Monday. “At a time when this community is faced with a long, difficult road to recovery, we must do everything we can to help, including supporting the region’s economy — and in this case, protecting the Green Mountain lookout saves a cherished landmark and supports outdoor recreation and tourism, both critically important to the local economy.”
The effort championed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. DelBene and Rick Larsen, puts the brakes on a 2012 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to remove the historic structure. Restoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps-era gem in 2002 violated the 1964 Wilderness Act because workers used motorized equipment in its repair. But the court’s original remedy — tear it down — stood logic on its head.
A U.S. Forest Service’s court-compelled report recommended the use of a helicopter to relocate the lookout to Circle Mountain in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The strategy was to employ a chopper in violation of the Wilderness Act to uphold the Wilderness Act.
Recently, Murray, DelBene and other members of the delegation asked Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin what more they could do to help the people of the Stilliguamish valley. “We need a glimmer of hope, some good news,” Rankin told them. “Congress needs to pass the Green Mountain lookout bill.” Thanks to the leadership of Murray. DelBene and Larsen it was made so.
“With the summer recreation season coming up, protecting Green Mountain lookout sends a message from Congress to these communities: We’re with you,” Larsen said.
The bill happened to pass on the 30th anniversary of the death of Idaho Sen. Frank Church, who served as floor leader of the 1964 National Wilderness Act. As Murray noted, preserving our shared history and natural heritage go hand in hand. Monday’s triumph of common sense reflects the spirit of the Wilderness Act. Church would have been delighted.