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Bills introduced to improve access to public lands

WASHINGTON, D. C. - Rep. Doc Hastings introduced three pieces of legislation this week to the House of Representatives that provide recreational access, tourism and fishing opportunities in Washington state.

The bills will be referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where Hastings serves as chairman. All three of Hastings' bills passed the House of Representatives with broad, bipartisan support in the 112th Congress, but the Senate failed to take a vote on the bills.

H.R. 1157, the Rattlesnake Mountain Public Access Act, would allow public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain located on the Hanford Reach National Monument in Benton County.

Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responsible for managing the Hanford Reach National Monument, has refused even limited public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain. Hastings' legislation would require the Secretary of the Interior to provide reasonable public access to the summit for educational, recreational, historical, scientific, cultural and other purposes.

"As I've said many times, people are permitted to scale the top of Mount Rainier and they should have the opportunity to take in the sights from the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain," said Hastings.

"Since the public owns these lands, everyone should be permitted safe, regular and carefully managed access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain," he added.

Under Hastings' bill, public access would include motor vehicles, pedestrians and other non-motorized transportation methods such as bicycles. The bill does not dictate how and when public access occurs, but does mandate that public access be permitted.

Hasting also introduced H.R. 1156, which adjusts a wilderness boundary to allow the National Parks Service to relocate and rebuild the Upper Stehekin Valley Road in the North Cascades National Park.

Over time, floods and the changing path of the Stehekin River have critically damaged significant sections of Stehekin Road. The road occupies a narrow corridor within the borders of the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area. Congressional approval is required to modify the corridor prior to the National Park Service rebuilding the road.

Hastings' third bill, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act (H.R. 1158), would allow the practice of fish stocking in North Cascades lakes to continue. Without this legislative authority, the National Park Service has stopped and will not continue fish stocking.

Hastings' bill would permit the stocking of up to 42 of the lakes that have historically been stocked with fish located in the North Cascades National Park Complex. The Complex includes the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The lakes in question are home to many recreational activities and draw park visitors from around the state, region and beyond.

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