Politics sinks historic lookout

In his new book, “Things That Matter,” columnist Charles Krauthammer reduces a familiar, soul-deadening enterprise to its essence.

“Politics, the crooked timber of our communal life, dominates everything because, in the end, everything—high and low, and, most especially, high — lives or dies by politics,” Krauthammer writes. “You can have the most advanced or efflorescent of cultures. Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away.”

Last week, getting the politics wrong snuffed the chances for a sensible bill that rights a wrong, namely saving the Green Mountain fire lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. The bill, championed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Suzan 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 is to employ a chopper in violation of the Wilderness Act to uphold the Wilderness Act.

The keep-it-where-it-is fix is uncontroversial in the Senate. The Green Mountain bill would have been easy to shepherd in the House as a stand-alone bill. However, House Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings — a fellow Northwesterner, no less — opted for the monkeying option (see “getting your politics wrong,” above), conflating the Green Mountain bill with a series of exploitive measures to loosen off-road vehicle use, grazing and other unrelated issues.

The omnibus bill passed the House, but it’s dead on arrival in the Senate. Hastings’s non-public interest agenda is pure politics (read: If I can’t have mine, you can’t have yours, however sensible it may be.)

Both DelBene and Larsen had to vote against their own bill since it was hitched to Hasting’s omnibus embarrassment.

“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.” DelBene said on the House floor last week. “Green Mountain Lookout represents a significant piece of the Pacific Northwest’s history and it deserves to be protected..”

If only we could straighten, just a little bit, that crooked timber.

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