Wild Sky wilderness bill dead in the water for this year

Despite overwhelming public and bipartisan support, an effort to create Washington state’s first new wilderness area in 20 years died yesterday, thanks to both partisan quarreling and the intransigence of Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee. The story is complicated and rife with political finger-pointing. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) was the original sponsor of a bill proposing the 106,000-acre Wild Sky wilderness area, to be located in his district northeast of Seattle. Pombo balked at the bill, saying that because some of the land had long ago been logged, it couldn’t qualify as wilderness. Then Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) stepped in, claiming he had the cred and influence to craft a version that would satisfy Pombo and get the bill out of committee. Washington state Democrats said Nethercutt’s version was too weak, and claimed Nethercutt was using the issue to bolster his campaign to unseat Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in this year’s election. The bickering gave Pombo an excuse to yank the whole thing, calling it a “political football.”