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Calendar No. 255
108th Congress Report
1st Session 108-131
WILD SKY WILDERNESS ACT OF 2003
August 26, 2003.--Ordered to be printed
Filed, under authority of the order of the Senate of July 29
(legislative day, July 21), 2003
Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany S. 391]
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was
referred the bill (S. 391) to enhance ecosystem, protection and
the range of outdoor opportunities protected by statute in the
Skykomish River valley of the State of Washington by
designating certain lower-elevation Federal lands as
wilderness, and for other purposes, having considered the same,
reports favorably thereon with amendments and recommends that
the bill, as amended, do pass.
The amendments are as follows:
1. Beginning on page 1, strike line 6 and all that follows
through page 4, line 13.
2. On page 4, line 14, strike ``SEC. 3'' and insert ``SEC.
3. On page 5, line 13, strike ``SEC. 4'' and insert ``SEC.
4. On page 6, line 14, strike ``trail'' and insert
5. On page 7, line 1, insert ``telecommunications'' after
6. On page 7, line 10, insert ``to be'' after
7. On page 7, line 17, strike ``SEC. 5'' and insert ``SEC.
8. On page 7, line 22, strike ``section 3(a)(1)'' and
insert ``section 2(a)(1)''.
9. On page 8, line 3, strike ``assure'' and insert
10. On page 8, line 9, strike ``SEC. 6'' and insert ``SEC.
11. On page 9, line 2, strike ``snowtel site'' and insert
``telemetry site to monitor snow pack''.
12. On page 9, line 12, strike ``snowtel'' and insert
13. On page 9, line 15, strike ``secretary'' and insert
PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE
The purpose of S. 391 is to enhance ecosystem protection
and the range of outdoor opportunities protected by statute in
the Skykomish River Valley of the State of Washington by
designating certain lower-elevation Federal lands as wilderness
in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
BACKGROUND AND NEED
The Wild Sky Wilderness is located just a few hours from
over half of Washington's population and will provide key
recreational opportunities to the booming population of the
Puget Sound region as well as creating a vital link to other
Cascade Wilderness Areas. Additionally, these areas will
provide a safe and healthy home for important fish and wildlife
One of the main goals of this bill is protecting and
promoting high-quality open space and recreational
opportunities for the growing Puget Sound region. More than 2.4
million people live in King, Snohomish, and Skagit counties.
All of these areas are within close proximity to the area, and
population of the area continues to grow, leading to increasing
loss of open space.
Another important goal to be achieved by enactment of S.
391 is to place lowlands into the wilderness system in
Washington State. Current wilderness areas in western
Washington State are primarily high-elevation and, while
important, do not reflect a wide range of ecological systems.
S. 391 designates lowlands around the North Fork Skykomish
river and its many creeks as wilderness. The bill establishes
the 106,000 acre Wild Sky Wilderness Area in the Mt. Baker-
Snoqualmie National Forest.
S. 391 was introduced by Senator Murray and Senator
Cantwell on February 13, 2003. The Subcommittee on Public Lands
and Forests held a hearing on June 4, 2003. The bill was
favorably reported by the Committee, with amendments on July
23, 2003. A similar bill. S. 2565, was ordered reported by the
Committee on October 3, 2002. The text of the bill passed the
Senate on November 20, 2002, as Title V of S. 2222.
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open
business session on July 23, 2003, by a voice vote of a quorum
present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 391 if amended as
During its consideration of S. 391, the Committee adopted
several technical and clarifying amendments. The amendments
struck the finding and statement of policy, redesignated the
sections, and it made technical and clarifying changes.
Section 1 provides a short title for the Act as the ``Wild
Sky Act of 2003''.
Section 2(a) adds approximately 106,000 acres of National
Forest System lands in the State of Washington to the National
Wilderness Preservation System.
Section (b) directs the Secretary of Agriculture
(``Secretary'') to file a map and legal description with the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the
Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives.
Section 3(a) requires the Secretary to manage the lands
designated in section 3 in accordance with the Wilderness Act
(16 U.S.C. 1131 et. seq.).
The Committee is aware that some National Forest lands
designated as Wilderness by S. 391 contain culverts and a
bridge. The Committee understands that some of the culverts and
the bridge are in disrepair. In fact, the General Accounting
Office recently reported that the Forest Service's culvert
maintenance backlog totals $331 million in Washington and
Oregon (GAO-02-596T). The GAO report concludes that the Forest
Service has not made sufficient funds available for culvert
The Committee anticipates that the Forest Service will
eventually remove most, if not all, of the culverts and could
need to remove the bridge after this area is designated as
Wilderness. However, the Committee is aware that such removal
may not occur in a timely manner given the current state of the
Forest Service's maintenance backlog. In the interim, the
Forest Service may find that continued maintenance is necessary
with respect to a particular culvert or culverts in order to
avoid damage to fisheries and soil resources.
Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act prohibits among other
things, the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or
other forms of mechanized transport, ``except as necessary to
meet minimum requirements for the Administration of the area
for the purpose of this Act * * *'' The Committee believes that
the Forest Service's ability to properly maintain affected
culverts can be accomplished consistent with the authority of
the Wilderness Act. The Committee recognizes that the Forest
Service may determine that the use of motorized or mechanized
equipment is necessary to accomplish maintenance activities. In
fact, the Committee notes that the Federal land management
agencies' wilderness management guidelines explicitly state
that the term ``minimum tool'' is not synonymous with
``primitive tool'' and in some cases an agency may determine
that minimum tool includes motor vehicles, or other motorized
or mechanized equipment.
Subsection (b) requires the Secretary to consult with
interested parties and to establish a hiking trail plan to
develop a system of hiking and equestrian trails within or
adjacent to the wilderness designated by this Act in a manner
consistent with the Wilderness Act.
Subsection (c) authorizes the Secretary to use helicopter
access to construct and maintain, in a manner compatible with
the preservation of the wilderness environment, a Forest
Service communication repeater site to provide improved
communication for safety and health purposes.
Subsection (d) authorizes the use of float planes on Lake
Isabel where such use has already been established.
Subsection (e) states that the designation under this Act
shall not preclude the operation and maintenance of the
evergreen mountain lookout.
Section 4(a) authorizes the Secretary to acquire lands
identified as ``Priority Acquisition Lands'' on the identified
map and adjust the boundaries of the Snoqualmie National Forest
and the Wild Sky Wilderness to encompass any land acquired
pursuant to this section.
Subsection (b) states that, consistent with section 5(a) of
the Wilderness Act, the Secretary shall assure adequate to
private inholdings within the Wild Sky Wilderness.
Subsection (c) states that valuation of private lands shall
be determined without reference to any restrictions on access
or use which arise out of designation as a wilderness area as a
result of this Act.
Section 5 directs the Secretary to exchange certain lands
with the Chelan County Public Utility District.
COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS
The following estimate of costs of this measure has been
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, August 1, 2003.
Hon. Pete V. Domenici,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 391, the Wild Sky
Wilderness Act of 2003.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Megan
Robert A. Sunshine
(For Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director).
S. 391--Wild Sky Wilderness Act of 2003
Summary: S. 391 would designate the Wild Sky Wilderness on
106,000 acres of federal lands within the Mount Baker-
Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington and would authorize
the Secretary of Agriculture to acquire nonfederal lands and
interests within the proposed wilderness. The bill would
require the Secretary to prepare a plan to establish hiking
trails within the proposed wilderness and report to the
Congress on the implementation of that plan. Finally, S. 391
would direct the Secretary to convey to a local public utility
district a permanent easement to operate a snow-monitoring
device on 1.82 acres of national forest land in exchange for
roughly 372 acres of land owned by that district.
CBO estimates that implementing S. 391 would cost $18
million over the 2004-2008 period, assuming appropriation of
the necessary amounts. The bill could affect direct spending
(including offsetting receipts), but we estimate that any such
effects would be negligible. S. 391 contains no
intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no costs
on state, local, or tribal governments.
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated
budgetary impact of S. 391 is shown in the following table. The
costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300
(natural resources and environment).
By fiscal year, millions of dollars
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Estimated authorization level...................................... 7 5 5 1 0
Estimated outlays.................................................. 7 5 4 1 1
Basis of estimate: CBO estimates that implementing S. 391
would cost $18 million over the 2004-2008 period, assuming
appropriation of the necessary amounts. We also estimate that
the bill could increase direct spending, but that any such
effects would not be significant in any year. For this
estimate, CBO assumes that S. 391 will be enacted near the
start of fiscal year 2004 and that necessary funds will be
provided near the start of each year. Estimates of outlays are
based on historical spending patterns for similar activities.
Spending subject to appropriation
Based on information from the Forest Service, CBO estimates
that designating the proposed wilderness would increase the
agency's administrative costs by roughly $250,000 a year. We
also estimate that the agency would spend: $6 million over the
2004-2006 period to remove 27 miles of road that currently
exist within the proposed wilderness; $4 million over the 2004-
2007 period to design and implement a system of trails; and up
to $7 million over the 2004-2006 period to acquire nonfederal
lands and interests within the proposed wilderness.
Designating federal lands as wilderness could result in
forgone offsetting receipts (a credit against direct spending)
if, under current law, those lands would generate income from
activities such as timber harvesting and mining. According to
the Forest Service, however, those lands currently generate no
significant receipts and are not expected to do so over the
next 10 years. Hence, CBO estimates that any forgone receipts
under S. 391 would be negligible.
Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: S. 391
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or
Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Megan Carroll. Impact
on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Marjorie Miller.
Impact on the Private Sector: Cecil McPherson.
Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION
In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in
carrying out S. 391. The bill is not a regulatory measure in
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals
No personal information would be collected in administering
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal
Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the
enactment of S. 391, as ordered reported.
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has requested
legislative reports from the Department of Agriculture and the
Office of Management and Budget setting forth Executive agency
recommendations on S. 391. These reports become available, the
Chairman will request that they be printed in the Congressional
Record for the advice of the Senate. The testimony provided by
the United States Forest Service at the Subcommittee hearing
Statement of Mark Rey, Under Secretary, Department of Agriculture
S. 391 would designate approximately 106,000 acres of
additional wilderness on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National
Forest in the State of Washington. It directs the Secretary to
assure adequate access to private in-holdings within the Wild
Sky Wilderness and establish a trail plan for hiking and
equestrian trails within and adjacent to the wilderness. The
bill authorizes the use of helicopter access to construct and
maintain a joint Forest Service and Snohomish County repeater
site to provide improved communication for safety, health, and
S. 391 also requires the Secretary to exchange specified
lands with the Chelan County Public Utility District if the
District offers to the Secretary approximately 371.8 acres
within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, in exchange
for a permanent easement, including helicopter access,
consistent with such levels as used as of the date of this
bill's enactment, to maintain an existing snotel site on 1.82
acres on the Wenatchee National Forest. The snotel site is
currently used to monitor the snow pack for calculating
expected runoff into hydroelectric projects. If, after the
exchange occurs, Chelan County notifies the Secretary that they
no longer need to maintain the snotel site, the easement will
be extinguished and all rights conveyed by this exchange would
revert to the United States.
The Department does not oppose the designation of the Wild
Sky Wilderness as a component of the National Wilderness
Preservation System. We recognize and commend the delegation
for its collaborative approach and local involvement that
contribute to bipartisan support for this bill. However, the
Department would like to work with the Committee to improve S.
While the vast majority of the lands described in S. 391
are appropriate for wilderness designation, the Department has
significant concerns with approximately 16,000 acres. These
acres would not be considered suitable for wilderness
designation under the provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act or
under existing Forest Service regulations and planning
direction. The Department believes that the current allocation
of these lands under the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Plan
continues to be the most suitable designation for these acres.
The lands that we believe are appropriate for designation
under the Wilderness Act, approximately 90,000 acres, consist
of all of the Eagle Rock Roadless Area and portions of Glacier
Peak A, B, K, and L. These areas retain their undeveloped
character and are largely without permanent improvements or
human habitation. Limiting the wilderness designation to these
lands would address many of the Department's concerns.
The areas we propose for exclusion from wilderness
designation include low elevation forests that have been
utilized for timber harvest and mining over the last 80 years,
still showing visible evidence of road building, logging and
mining activities. The areas also include approximately 27
miles of existing roads, some of which are all weather,
drivable, and graveled. Several of the roads receive
significant visitor use associated with recreation
opportunities. The Rapid River Road is such a travel way and we
recommend excluding it, in its entirety, from wilderness
designation. The types of recreation experiences enjoyed by
users along the Rapid River Road corridor include driving for
pleasure, nature photography, fishing, picnicking and dispersed
camping at a number of pull-off sites along the road. In the
winter snowmobiles use this road as a part of the snowmobile
trail system, traveling to its end point.
Another concern lies with roads, both outside and adjacent
to the proposed wilderness boundary that have narrow corridors
subject to landslide and river bank erosion. This situation
poses significant public access and resource management issues,
as the proximity of the proposed boundary could result in
constraints related to necessary repairs and road
reconstruction work. We would like to work with the Committee
on more appropriate boundaries.
Further, we propose the exclusion of most of the
approximately 2,400 acres of private patented mining claims and
private timberlands. A boundary adjustment in the Silver Creek
drainage would remove most of the private lands from the
Finally, the approach to naming these disconnected areas of
land collectively as the Wild Sky Wilderness may cause public
confusion, particularly since some of the areas proposed for
designation are immediately adjacent to the existing Henry M.
Jackson Wilderness. In order to minimize administrative costs
and reduce public confusion, the Department suggests
designating only Eagle Rock Roadless Area as Wild Sky
Wilderness. The Glacier Peak Roadless Areas A, B, K, and L
should become additions to the adjacent Henry M. Jackson
The Department supports the administrative provisions in
the bill, particularly provisions for a repeater site to
provide improved communications for safety and health purposes.
The Department also supports the provisions for land exchange
in the Glacier Peak Wilderness and provisions for management of
the existing snowtel site in that wilderness.
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no
changes in existing law are made by the bill S. 391 as ordered