Learn more about the campaign
What is the Methow Headwaters Campaign?
The Methow Headwaters Campaign brings together local Valley businesses, area residents, civic leaders and local organizations concerned about the threat an industrial-scale copper mine poses to the region’s economy, waters and rural character. The campaign’s goal is to build on broad community support to make the upper headwaters of the Methow River “off-limits” to mining through a “mineral withdrawal.” The campaign is pursuing an administrative withdrawal “in aid of legislation,” which is approved by the Secretary of the Interior and would provide protection from new claims or exploration for up to 20 years. The campaign is also working in support of the permanent mineral withdrawal called for in the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016.
Why protect the Methow Valley?
The Methow Valley is a special part of the country, tucked amidst some of the Northwest’s most spectacular and iconic lands. Highway 20, the North Cascades Scenic Highway, travels through the valley. The wild high country of the North Cascades National Park rises above the Methow Valley to the west, and the peaks of the Pasayten Wilderness to the north provide valuable recreation opportunities and vital habitat for a diversity of species. These lands provide clean water, and play a critical role in the valley’s local economy, natural environment, and quality of life.
What is the threat?
A Canadian company, Blue River Resources, Ltd., has been pursuing efforts to conduct exploratory drilling directly above the town of Mazama, Wash. Completion of exploratory drilling could open the door to future development of large scale, open pit mining operations in the headwaters. The proposed Methow Headwaters mineral withdrawal of about 340,000 acres encompasses the full extent of any copper deposits that might lead to industrial-scale mining in headwater streams that originate at the heart of the Methow River’s headwaters. Large-scale mine development in the headwaters threatens the area’s critical water resources, fish and wildlife and the valley’s rural character and outdoor based economy. Full-scale mining will cause years of disruption to the area through increased heavy truck traffic and industrial activity, visual impacts, and disruption of wildlife and their habitat. Despite ongoing advances in techniques and required cleanup plans, accidents and spills that affect water quality are known to happen with devastating results, and ensuring required mitigation performance often falls short of commitments.
What is the progress of this campaign?
On December 30, 2016 the Bureau of Land Management initiated a two-year mineral withdrawal, during which the agencies will evaluate whether to extend the temporary withdrawal for 20 years. This essentially provides a “time out” from new mine development and exploration in the Methow Headwaters. The withdrawal supports legislation that was introduced in 2016 by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that sought permanent protection from large-scale mining in the Methow Headwaters. The Senators have pledged to continue efforts to passage legislation in support of the headwaters.
Can I donate to the campaign?
Contributions may be made to the "Methow Headwaters Campaign," PO Box 424, Winthrop, WA 98862 The campaign also needs direct involvement. Please sign on as a supporter and send a postcard or letter in support of the withdrawal.
Who is involved in the campaign?
Support for the campaign grew from broad community concern when Blue River Resources, Ltd announced in 2014 its intent to explore for copper in the Methow Valley. A large number of residents turned out for public hearings held by the Forest Service and about 700 community comments were submitted expressing concerns. The business community has mobilized around this issue because of concerns over its potential impacts on clean water, natural open spaces and access to recreational areas that drive tourism, active outdoor recreation, agriculture and real estate. The Methow Headwaters Campaign, which launched in February 2016, brings together more than 135 local Methow Valley businesses, and a significant number of area residents, civic leaders and local, regional and national organizations concerned about the threat an industrial-scale copper mine poses to the region’s economy, water resources and rural character. This includes local organizations such as the Methow Valley Citizens Council, which has been engaged in the campaign, and other groups, such as The Wilderness Society, that has provided technical assistance. More than 2,000 citizens have signed the campaign petition as of November 2016, and thousands have submitted letters of support to the administration, urging action.
What does a mineral withdrawal do?
The Secretary of the Interior, or Congressional legislation can approve a “mineral withdrawal,” which removes a specific area of federal land from operation under the 1872 Mining Law. Once started, such an action would bring a halt to further exploration, drilling, and new mine development until the withdrawal process is complete and the validity of any claims determined. If withdrawn, no new exploration or mining claims could be pursued for up to 20 years. Currently, federal legislation has been introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Cantwell (D-WA), which would provide for a permanent withdrawal.
What is the withdrawal process for the Methow Headwaters?
The Forest Service submits an application to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Our withdrawal application was accepted in December 2016 and the segregation notice has been filed in the Federal Register. The notice temporarily closes the area to further exploration to establish new claims for two years while an analysis is completed and paperwork for the withdrawal is submitted to the Secretary of Interior for approval or disapproval. The Federal Register Notice announcing a proposed withdrawal begins the public’s opportunity for comment. There’s also opportunity for public participation during the environmental analysis phase required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Congress can also permanently withdraw lands, and federal legislation, S.2991, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, was introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Cantwell (D-WA) in May 2016. These two processes can work in concert, with the Forest Service enacting a short-term mineral withdrawal in aid of legislation, which closes an area to the staking of any new mining claims while Congress works to pass legislation.
What is the size of the withdrawal and area proposed for protection?
The campaign is proposing that the Department of Interior withdraw 340,000 acres of National Forest in the Methow River’s upper headwaters. Methow Headwaters is proposing this area for withdrawal to encompass the full extent of any potential copper deposit that could be developed at an industrial scale and to ensure that intact watersheds and habitat remain off-limits to industrial mining. The withdrawal area also provides for up to 20 years of protection for these important lands, eliminating the potential for ongoing battles over inappropriate large-scale mining and allowing the community to focus on continuing to build a resilient and enduring economy for the valley. It also allows the Forest Service to allocate its limited resources to very important valley needs that protect the local economy and personal property.
What changes when lands are withdrawn?
A mineral withdrawal prohibits new exploration to establish mining claims in the designated area. In addition, existing claims that are not recognized as valid as of the date of withdrawal cannot be developed. Withdrawals do not affect existing valid claims maintained in accordance with the requirements of federal regulations. Withdrawal doesn’t affect other existing uses or access to National Forest lands, such as for grazing and recreational activities.
What is the Forest Service’s role in a withdrawal?
The Secretary of Interior is the decision maker; the Forest Service needs to support a withdrawal and initiate the process. It’s important that both the Forest Service and Interior hear the community’s support for a withdrawal.
Other great resources to find out more information on mining claims and the withdrawal process here:
Kalmiopsis Rivers Campaign:
BLM Mining Laws: