Cantwell, Murray Legislation to Designate Mountains to Sound Greenway as National Heritage Area Passes Senate

Bill would promote Washington state tourism and outdoor recreation economy, preserving important, scenic landscape; Mountains to Sound Greenway would be designated as Pacific Northwest’s first National Heritage Area

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA) to designate Washington state’s Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area passed the Senate as part of a larger public lands package. 

The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act would designate 1.5 million acres of land stretching along the Interstate 90 corridor from Seattle to Ellensburg as the Pacific Northwest’s first National Heritage Area. Spanning 2,400 square miles, it includes the Cascade peaks, wilderness lakes and forests, as well as a network of roads, rails, and trails. It includes farms and forests, historic sites, lakes, campgrounds, rivers, and wildlife habitat. The area is home to 1.4 million residents in 28 cities and 1,600 miles of trails. 

“Washington state’s recreation economy generates $26 billion in annual spending and supports more than 200,000 direct jobs,” Senator Cantwell said. “Continuing to protect our most scenic and historic landscapes, like the Mountains to Sound Greenway, will help boost tourism and preserve our natural landscape for future generations.” 

“This designation will not only protect one of Washington state’s iconic stretches and ensure its preservation for years to come, but will also support local tourism and economic development that will help communities from Seattle to Ellensburg continue to thrive—a win-win for our state’s economy and environment,” Senator Murray said. “I’m glad to see this effort finally cross the finish line and will continue working to protect even more of our state’s public lands and natural resources.” 

National Heritage Areas are Congressional-designated partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local communities through which the Park Service supports local and state efforts to preserve natural resources and promote tourism. National Heritage Areas are not part of the National Park System. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired. 

Since 1991, the nonprofit Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has worked to preserve the area’s scenic landscapes for recreation, education, and conservation. More than 900,000 acres of land now are publicly-owned, including parks and forests such as Tiger Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass, and Mount Si. 

“Designation of the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area marks the culmination of a seven year bipartisan effort and opens a new era of collaborative conservation in which environmental protection and a vibrant economy go hand in hand. Senators Cantwell and Murray have been Greenway champions from the very beginning, and we are grateful for how hard they have fought for our nation’s public lands,” said Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. 

Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants and can help draw financial contributions from state, local, and private sources. A recent economic impact study indicates National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs, according to the Park Service. On average, Heritage Areas generate about $263 million in economic activity and support about 3,000 jobs, primarily through tourism and visitor spending. 

Heritage Area designations also help coordinate marketing and tourism promotion, such as developing websites, putting up highway signs to advertise sites, sponsoring festivals, and publishing brochures and tour maps. Heritage Areas also can help with assisting in the operation of museums and visitor centers. 

Cantwell and Murray introduced the legislation in March 2017. With its passage in the Senate, the package of legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to quickly pass and move on to the president’s desk for signature into law. 

A one-pager with more information on the Senate’s public lands package is available HERE.