A group of Methow Valley citizens and businesses called the Methow Headwaters Campaign is asking federal agencies to withdraw 340,000 acres of National Forest land from future mineral exploration and mining. The biodiversity of the area is unique in that the northern boreal forests come together with the desert shrub-steppe. The area supports wildlife from wolverines and Canada lynx to spotted owls, pygmy short-horned lizards and endangered salmon.
Flagg Mountain, the proposed mining exploration site, sits in the middle of protected areas like Lake Chelan-Sawtooth and Pasayten Wilderness areas and North Cascades National Park. Nearly one million visitors travel to the valley every year, contributing over $150 million to the Okanogan County economy. Community members are pushing for mineral withdrawal to protect the area and its recreation-dependent businesses from the impacts of mining. A mine here would be contrary to the decades of work that have gone into protecting the region as a whole.
Support for the campaign continues to grow as businesses, nonprofits, individuals and elected officials add their names to the effort. Senator Murray and Cantwell’s bill, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 received support from the Forest Service in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in September 2016. The agency plans to immediately begin working on the administrative process of mineral withdrawal, and at the end of 2016, the Department of Interior officially kicked off a two-year planning period to evaluate the potential for a 20-year administrative withdrawal.
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