Agency Commits to Mineral Withdrawal, Methow Headwaters Requests Action Now

On October 12, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack sent a letter to Senators Murray and Cantwell expressing support for S. 2991, The Methow Headwaters Protection Act, and commitment to safeguarding the ecological and economic resources of the Methow Valley through a mineral withdrawal in aid of legislation: “I support S. 2991 and believe a mineral withdrawal is the best path toward mitigating any impacts to the ecological, cultural and economic significance of the Methow Valley to the surrounding communities.” Secretary Vilsack goes on to say that it will take a “year or more” for the agency to prepare and submit the required mineral withdrawal application to the Bureau of Land Management.

The Methow Headwaters Campaign is grateful for this strong demonstration of support and commitment to safeguard the precious resources of the Methow Valley. However, taking “one year or more” is simply too long. Failure to act more quickly jeopardizes the precious resources of the Methow. This delay also makes it very likely the community will have to stare down another exploratory drilling season on Flagg Mountain, which is one step closer to an industrial-scale mine in the Methow.

It is imperative to officially initiate the mineral withdrawal process by issuing a segregation notice before the end of the current term. This process starts with an application filed by the U.S. Forest Service Region 6 Office in cooperation with Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to the Washington/Oregon Bureau of Land Management Office by the end of October. This swift action is essential to protect the area covered by S. 2991, The Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016, from an unseemly rush to stake new claims and to secure momentum into the next administration. Doing so will afford the best protection of the Methow Headwaters while the agencies evaluate the viability of a mineral withdrawal.

The Methow Headwaters Campaign will work with a wide range of partners and campaign supporters to request urgent action, such as writing letters to U.S. Forest Service leadership, elevating this issue in the media, and meeting with key decision makers.