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Washington Blog

Protecting Recreation in the Methow Valley

Guest Contributor

Republished, with permission, from The Mountaineers

We asked, and our land managers listened. On Friday, December 30, 2016, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a two-year segregation notice that temporarily protects 340,000 acres of the Methow Valley from future mining claims. The action blocks the proposed copper claim overlooking the town of Mazama for two years, providing us with a critical period to make the case for the long-term protection of the Methow Valley.

Now, the governing agencies – the U.S. Forest Service and BLM – will evaluate a possible 20-year administrative mineral withdrawal extending the period during which mining would be prohibitedon the Methow watershed’s federal lands. The 90-day public comment period has begun and will close March 30, 2017.

BLM is accepting public input to move forward with the 20-year withdrawal. Let's make sure they hear how much the Methow Valley means to us. Take a moment today to write a letter. The form linked below makes it easy to send a message straight to the BLM office. The form also includes a thank-you message to Senators Murray and Cantwell to show support for their efforts to permanently protect the Methow Valley through legislation.

PERMANENT PROTECTION

A 20-year withdrawal will allow Congressional leaders to work on a permanent solution. In May, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) co-sponsored the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, which would protect the lands from large-scale mining for perpetuity. In a joint press release, the senators celebrated BLM’s actions and pledged to keep moving the legislation forward. The withdrawal also received praise from local state Senator, Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, who commented, “The community in the Methow Valley is united in its desire to maintain the area’s rural character, and safeguard the lands and waters at the heart of the local economy.”    

BACKGROUND

For those new to the issue, here’s the gist: A Canadian company has filed for permits to conduct exploratory drilling in the heart of the Methow Valley. The claim is the first step in what could lead to a large scale, open pit copper mine (roughly 6-miles long). In response, thousands of people who live, work, and play in the region have come together to form the Methow Headwaters Campaign.

The Mountaineers have been honored to contribute to the campaign. Located in the eastern foothills of the North Cascades, the area’s towering peaks and weaving tributaries offer world class adventuring. The Methow embodies The Mountaineers’ mission to protect the wild places where we play. This is where we climb, ski, hike, paddle, and snowshoe – just earlier this month our volunteers organized a winter trails weekend in partnership with many local organizations and businesses. Furthermore, this watershed sustains critical wildlifehabitat and a local economy based on outdoor recreation, scenic tourism, and agriculture.