On December 30, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a two year mineral segregation of 340,079 acres of National Forest System land on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Okanogan County, Washington.
Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the move. The senators have advocated for permanent protection of the land in order to safeguard the natural resources in the region, including water and salmon, as well as local recreation opportunities.
“This action is a huge step forward in our fight to preserve and protect our state’s incredible resources for future generations,” Murray said. “I am especially grateful to the local community members who have led the charge to protect investments in salmon recovery, and defend tribal treaty rights and the region’s outdoor economy. In the coming months and years, I will continue to work with the community and my colleagues in Congress to make sure the Methow Valley is permanently protected from devastating mining operations.”
“The Methow Valley is too significant to allow mining exploration that threatens our clean water. I’m glad to see the department continuing work on the withdrawal application, and I will stay focused on ensuring the process moves quickly to protect this pristine region,” Cantwell said.
“We enjoy a solid economy in the Methow Valley and its resilience is built on the value of clean air and water,” said Sam Lucy, owner of Bluebird Grain Farms. “The administration’s decision to move the withdrawal process forward is a vital step in keeping our valley special and the local economy strong.”
“Support for action to protect the Methow Headwaters, especially from the business community, is very strong,” said Julie Muyllaert, co-owner of Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop. “The businesses in the valley recognize that our success depends on maintaining the area’s spectacular lands, recreational resources, clean water and fresh air. For these important reasons we are committed to achieving a mineral withdrawal for the Methow Headwaters.”
“It is the town’s obligation to protect our water, the local economy and the well-being of our citizens,” said Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody. “That’s why this summer the Twisp Town Council passed a resolution supporting the Methow Headwaters’ mineral withdrawal. Today’s announcement about the withdrawal is good news that reinforces our efforts on behalf of Twisp residents and future generations.”
In May, Senator Murray introduced the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 with Senator Cantwell as an original cosponsor, in order to protect approximately 340,000 acres of the Methow River watershed in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from potential development of a large-scale mine. The legislation, which was running concurrently with the administrative action announced December 30, would have withdrawn from mineral entry any deposits that could lead to an industrial-scale mine on the lands, and would protect the headwaters of the Methow River.
This action protects the upper Methow River drainage from possible adverse effects of new mineral development. While this action prohibits the location of new mining claims, it does not prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing mining claims, nor does it prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.
In addition, the Federal Register notice concurrently proposes a 20-year mineral withdrawal of the area at the conclusion of the two year segregation. Today’s publication of the Federal Register notice begins the official start of a 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal, which will end on March 30, 2017.
Written comments should be sent to the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, P.O. Box 2965, Portland, OR 97208-2965 or may be sent electronically to BLM_OR_WA_WITHDRAWALS@blm.gov. The public will also have the opportunity to verbally comment or provide written comments at a public meeting to be scheduled in early 2017.
Information regarding the withdrawal application will be available for public review at the BLM Oregon State Office, 1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204, and at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, WA 98801.