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Senators Murray, Cantwell Introduce Bill to Protect Methow Valley

Posted by Francakes at May 26, 2016 04:22 PM |

Senator Patty Murray and Representative Maria Cantwell have introduced legislation supporting the Methow Headwaters campaign lead by local residents, farmers and businesses.

On May 26, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Maria Cantwell introduced legislation to protect Methow Valley from large-scale mining activity that would be incompatible with the outdoor recreation and agricultural values of the region.

On the trail to Goat Peak Lookout near Flagg Mountain, one of the areas that could be protected by the proposed legislation.. Photo by Paul Kriloff.

This new legislation adds momentum to the local Methow Headwaters campaign, which has has found broad support in it's goal to protect the valley's dual identity as working lands and an outdoor recreation mecca.

The campaign is working towards a "mineral withdrawal" for the federal lands that compose the headwaters of the Methow watershed, approximately 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land. A withdrawal would protect the area from future mining proposals.

Preserving the recreation economy and water quality

“It is clear that the Methow Valley is a source of pride and is central to the region’s economic and environmental well-being,” said Senator Murray. “I am proud to work with the community to protect this environmentally sensitive area of the Methow River Valley, ensure critical federal investments in salmon recovery are protected, and continue to support the Valley’s thriving outdoor recreation economy.”

“Water issues in the Methow Valley are paramount. That is why copper mining that could impact rivers and salmon runs is something we can't risk,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Outdoor recreation contributes more than $151 million to Okanogan County each year, supporting hundreds of local jobs. Just under 1 million people visit the region each year, equal to about 20 times the area's population. Visitation numbersand economic valuewill continue to grow with the state's expanding population. Recreationists aren't the only ones attracted to the magic of the Methow, either. It's also an important area for foresters, farmers and salmon.

The Methow Valley is also home to one of the largest copper belts in the world that extends from the Methow to northern Canada, with eight producing copper mines along the way. Over the years, a variety of efforts have been pursued to mine the copper in the valley. Currently, a Canadian company is pursuing approval for exploratory drilling, which could lead to an industrial-scale mine in the headwaters of the Methow River on Flagg Mountain. That sits below the popular Goat Peak Lookout and trail and above the town of Mazama and its famous climbing destination, Goat Wall.

Methow Headwaters is working to stop the mine in this inappropriate area and make federal lands in the upper watershed “off limits” to large-scale mining. A group of more than 1,000 local businesses, farmers, recreationists, nonprofits and individuals have signed on to support the campaign. Supporters of the campaign include Washington Trails Association, Methow Trails, Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Bluebird Grain Farms, Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty, Mazama Country Inn, Methow Cycle and Sport and Sun Mountain Inn.