OUR PROPOSAL: MINERAL WITHDRAWAL OF THE METHOW HEADWATERS
The 1872 Mining Law is antiquated and allows virtually free access to minerals on nearly all federal lands. With the exception of the Pasayten and Lake-Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness Areas and the North Cascades Scenic Highway, all of the remaining federal lands in the Methow are open to industrial-scale mining operations like that envisioned for Flagg Mountain.
To counter the immediate threat on Flagg Mountain, and any future proposals, the Methow Headwaters Campaign proposes to secure 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. This decision falls on the shoulders of the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service—from the Chief’s office down to the Methow Valley Ranger District.
- On May 25, 2016, the campaign received a major boost with the introduction of federal legislation, S.2991, Methow Headwaters Protection Act, by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Cantwell (D-WA). This legislation provides a legislative route to protecting the Methow headwaters and ensures that the waters, working landscapes, wildlife, outdoor recreation, and the local economy of the Methow Valley will be permanently protected from large-scale mining. Introduction of this legislation also provides an important path for the U.S. Forest Service to enact a short-term mineral withdrawal of the headwaters region while the legislation makes its way through Congress.
- On October 12, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack sent a letter to Senators Murray and Cantwell expressing support for S. 2991 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.”
- On December 30, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officially initiated an administrative mineral withdrawal process for the Methow Headwaters through the publication of a segregation notice in the Federal Register. The notice kicks off a two-year timeout for new mining claims in the headwaters while the agencies evaluate the potential for a 20-year mineral withdrawal of the headwaters.
- On March 7, 2017 Senators Cantwell and Murray re-introduced the S. 566, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2017 in the 115th Congress.
- On September 21, 2018, the U.S. Forest Service completed an Environmental Assessment and Mineral Potential Report for the Methow Headwaters. The U.S. Forest Service submitted its final application package to the Bureau of Land Management, recommending a 20-year mineral withdrawal from the 340,079-acre Methow Headwaters region.
- On December 31, 2018 the Department of Interior failed to act prior to the year end deadline on approving the Methow Headwaters mineral withdrawal proposal. Full press release here.