Despite the ebuillent mood at the King County Library Services Center on Tuesday, U.S. Eighth District Representative Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) said "good things don't come easy" upon announcing a new bill to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway a National Heritage Area.
Reichert introduced the bill, H.R. 1785, to Congress on Friday, April 26, and it was immediately referred to committee. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Ninth District Rep. Adam Smith (D-Bellevue).
"Designating the Mountains to Sound Greenway a National Heritage Area is yet another step in recognizing Washington State’s distinguished influence and contribution to the national movement of keeping America green, clean, and pristine," Reichert said.
Reichert's bill would preserve the Greenway as a National Heritage Area, which is a large, lived-in area designated by the United States Congress where natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources combine to form a landscape of national distinction. The designation doesn't bring additional money to the area for improvements, but it does provides a flexible strategy to encourage residents, government agencies, nonprofit groups and private partners to collaboratively plan and implement projects to preserve a landscape, without affecting private property rights.
But the former King County Sheriff's environmental bent has been criticized by some as "greenwashing," with no real intent to actually pass the bill into law. Seattle PI.com reporter Joel Connelly questioned Reichert about past failed attempts to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, near North Bend, and asked about the faded tradition of Washington representatives in Congress supporting other members to designate federal protection of lands in their districts.
"We know this is going to be hard work," he said. "We know there are people who are going to have different opinions on every issue we want to bring up. I've been working closely with the chairman (Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings) on Alpine Lakes and also on the Heritage designation."
Fellow Washingtonian and US Fourth District Rep. "Doc" Hastings (R-Yakima) is the current chairman of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, where the bill will face its first test of viability.
The Mountains to Sound Greenway is a 1.5 million-acre landscape of urban and rural areas that stretches from Seattle to Ellensburg along I-90. A conservation-minded non-profit, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, established the boundaries of the greenway with a goal of planning development while also preserving "clean air, clean water and forested open space".
"National Heritage Area designation of the Mountains to Sound Greenway will communicate the national significance of the Greenway and build public awareness, recognition and involvement in stewardship of this landscape between Seattle and Ellensburg," said Bill Chapman, President of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. "Our goal is to empower citizens, businesses, interest groups and government to work together more efficiently to promote and preserve the Greenway for generations to come."