Editorial: Preserve the historic Green Mountain fire lookout

By:  The Seattle Times – Seattle Times Editorial Staff
Source: The Seattle Times

THE historic Green Mountain fire lookout should remain exactly where it was built 81 years ago — atop 6,500-foot Green Mountain, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness east of Darrington, Snohomish County.

The big-view lookout, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a destination for thousands of hikers for decades. It slowly crumbled under the weight of many winters, so the Forest Service rebuilt it in 2009.

That prompted a lawsuit from a Montana-based environmental group that argued the reconstruction, which utilized helicopters and power tools, violated the 1964 Wilderness Act.

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour agreed and ordered the Forest Service to take the lookout off the mountain.

U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and Rick Larsen, D-Everett, have stepped in and introduced legislation to save the structure. It has the support of the Obama administration, historic-preservation advocates and mainstream environmental groups.

But the legislation is caught in a political thicket from which it needs to be extracted. The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this month — but only after folding it into an omnibus public-lands measure whose other provisions sacrifice environmental safeguards to logging, grazing and off-road-vehicle interests.

DelBene and Larsen ended up voting against the package, as did almost all other House Democrats. It’s dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

There’s still hope for the lookout, however. A stand-alone Green Mountain bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Washington Democrats, has cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The full Senate should pass it and send it to the House, so it can do the right thing this time.