U.S. Forest Service Commits to a Mineral Withdrawal for the Methow Headwaters
Last week, the Methow Headwaters Campaign achieved an important milestone when the U.S. Forest Service voiced support for a mineral withdrawal to protect 340,000 acres of Forest Service land in the headwaters of the watershed from industrial-scale mining. The U.S. Forest Service’s testimony at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing states the agency “believes 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 community.” Senator Cantwell describes S. 2991, The Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016, as about “two things: clean water and keeping an amazing place the way it is.” In further questioning, Senator Cantwell not only secured commitment from the agency to immediately start the administrative withdrawal process, but she also received confirmation that the agency would not approve exploratory drilling operations given the agency’s commitment to the long-term withdrawal of the Methow headwaters.
The Methow Headwaters Campaign deeply appreciates the leadership of Senators Murray and Cantwell on behalf of the Methow Valley and greater Methow Headwaters coalition to permanently protect the Methow Valley with the passage of S. 2991 and to work with the administration on an administrative mineral withdrawal while the legislation makes its way through the Congressional approval process.
Read Senator Cantwell’s opening statement, which specifically focuses on S. 2991
Read U.S. Forest Service testimony, S. 2991 excerpt below
Watch a recording of the hearing (related statements begin at 32:40.00 and 2:04.24)
U.S. Forest Service written testimony for S. 2991, The Methow Headwaters Protection Act (September 22, 2016):
S. 2991 proposes to withdraw approximately 340,079 acres of Federal land and interests in the land located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from all forms of mineral development. The Methow region is one of several areas on National Forest System lands across the country where the USDA Forest Service is analyzing complex and often controversial potential mineral activities. The agency anticipated completing the NEPA environmental assessment and making a decision during the summer of 2016 regarding a proposed permit for mineral exploration. However, through the public engagement process and subsequent analysis, several new considerations have surfaced, including tribal concerns regarding the impacts of mining activity in the area proposed for exploration. The Department of Agriculture supports S. 2291 and believes 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 community.