Congress moving to save Green Mountain Lookout

By:  Seattle PI – Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle PI

The 16-month effort to save an historic, scenic, 6,500-foot high lookout cabin atop Green Mountain in Snohomish County is on track and moving 2,500 miles away in the halls of an otherwise-paralyzed U.S. Capitol.

The House Natural Resources Committee, hitherto a burial ground for outdoor recreation bills, is slated on Wednesday to vote out and send to the House legislation that would keep the lookout at its scenic summit home.

The Green Mountain Lookout:  Historic, scenic, and Congress is on the cusp of saving it.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and the U.S. Forest Service boosted it Tuesday at a Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing.

A radical green group based in Montana, Wilderness Watch, brought a lawsuit demanding removal of the lookout — located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area — after the Forest Service rebuilt the decaying 1933-vintage cabin and used a helicopter to haul in supplies.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled last year that the federal agency erred and violated the Wilderness Act with the rebuild.  He ordered removal or relocation of the lookout, but has given the Forest Service time to study the matter.

“I can’t imagine that Congress really intended to remove or destroy these kinds of historic hiking attractions when it passed the 1964 Wilderness Act,” Cantwell said Wednesday.  Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the lookout a “cherished site” and “an important part of our state’s history.”

Leslie Weldon, deputy chief of the Forest Service, told senators:  “The Green Mountain Lookout represents a slice of time of the history of the area and is a feature that is appreciated by many visitors.” A half-dozen lookouts remain inside wilderness and national park boundaries in the North Cascades.

Conservationists, historic preservationists and recreation groups have rallied in defense of the lookout.

The legislation to keep it in place is backed by The Wilderness Society, Back Country Horsemen of Washington, The Mountaineers, The Nature Conservancy and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The lookout was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, 31 years before passage of the Wilderness Act and 51 years before Green Mountain was added to the Glacier Peak Wilderness.  Its job was to spot fires but also, in World War II, to spot airplanes.  In recent years — until a road washout — it was part of a vastly popular day hike with fields of glacier lilies and summit views of Glacier Peak and Mount Baker. 

If the legislation to keep it passes, it’ll be the first successful bill sponsored by freshman U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who found herself representing eastern Snohomish County in the redrawn 1st District.  Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who represented the area for 12 years, is co-sponsor.