Energy and Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on Murray-Cantwell Bill to Designate Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River

Hearing Also Examines Fish Stocking in North Cascade National Park

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on national parks issues, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged passage of legislation she introduced with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to designate a segment of Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River. In addition, Cantwell questioned witnesses about legislation introduced by Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04) that would allow continued fish stocking in certain lakes in the National Cascade National Park.


“Illabot Creek is central to the Skagit Valley watershed and boasts some of the most pristine views and offers some of the best recreational opportunities in the Pacific Northwest,” said Cantwell during today’s hearing.  “If enacted, our bill will ensure protection of the Creek’s important fish and wildlife habitat, while also maintaining recreational opportunities such as fishing and hunting.” 


Illabot Creek provides crucial spawning habitat for the wild Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, and is home to numerous other species including bald eagles that roost along the creek.  According to The Nature Conservancy, the abundance of salmon and the high quality of habitat found in Illabot Creek make the Skagit River watershed one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states.  The Murray-Cantwell bill would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate a 14.3 mile segment of Illabot Creek as a Wild and Scenic River.


“We take our natural resources very seriously in Washington state, and this bill takes us another step forward toward protecting a pristine and delicate habitat for future generations,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Preserving Illabot Creek is vitally important to the many fish and wildlife that depend on it to survive, and it will ensure that this incredible land is protected for hunters, fishermen, and families to enjoy.”


The Committee also discussed legislation introduced by Congressman Hastings that would authorize the National Park Service to continue stocking fish in 42 of the 91 lakes that have historically been stocked with fish in North Cascade National Park.


“For decades, volunteer groups, working with the State of Washington, have stocked trout in a number of lakes in this area under carefully constructed management plans written by State and Park Service biologists,” said Cantwell.


Programs to stock fish in many lakes in North Cascade National Park date back to the late 1800s and have continued since the establishment of the park in 1968 through various management agreements between the State of Washington and the National Park Service (NPS).  Fish stocking was recognized as a legitimate historical use by members of Congress and federal officials during the legislative debate of designating the North Cascades National Park.  However, this was never codified in the legislation designating the North Cascade National Park.  On July 1, 2009, in absence of Congressional clarification, the Park Service ceased further stocking of fish in the North Cascades National Park.


Hastings’ legislation passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on June 2.


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