Report text available as:

  • TXT
  • PDF   (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip ?

                                                       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.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    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.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    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 
described herein.

                          COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS

    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-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

    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.


    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               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.

Direct spending

    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 
tribal governments.
    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.


    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 
and businesses.
    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.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    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 
emergency services.
    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 
proposed Wilderness.
    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