Washington, DC—Today, the effort in Congress to protect the Methow Headwaters led by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) took another step forward. The senators received a letter from Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, acknowledging his support for the Methow Headwaters Protection Act. He also expressed his commitment to effectively safeguarding the vital natural resources in the region, and his belief that mineral withdrawal is the best path toward protecting the Methow Valley and its surrounding communities.
“The Methow Valley is too significant to allow mining exploration that threatens our clean water. I'm glad to see the department working on the withdrawal application, and I will stay focused on ensuring the process moves quickly to protect this pristine region,” said Sen. Cantwell.
“This administrative step toward mineral withdrawal in the Methow River watershed is a great development in the effort to protect these vital natural resources,” Sen. Murray said. “I am glad the administration has acknowledged the importance of protecting the Methow Valley, and I will keep pressing all avenues to protect the ongoing salmon recovery efforts and the region’s outdoor economy.”
“The Methow Headwaters Campaign appreciates Secretary Vilsack's acknowledgement that the Forest Service has started the withdrawal application,” said Maggie Coon, one of the campaign's leaders. “While we appreciate the complexity of the process, we ask the Forest Service to prioritize getting a segregation notice published during this administration in support of the legislation.”
“My business is one of the more than 135 businesses in the valley that has supported efforts to keep our valley special and the local economy strong,” said Sam Lucy, owner of Bluebird Grain Farms. “I appreciate the work of Senators Murray and Cantwell to encourage the withdrawal in support of the legislation to protect the Methow Headwaters.”
“With our winter recreation season approaching, it's encouraging to know efforts are underway to protect the recreational, scenic and community values that make the Methow Valley a premier destination for visitors and a special place to live,” said James DeSalvo, executive director of Methow Trails.
Sens. Cantwell and Murray introduced the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 in May, 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 would withdraw 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.
Last month, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act was considered in a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and the next step would be a full committee vote. At that hearing, Sen. Cantwell asked Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service about protecting the Methow Valley. In response, Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon testified that “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.” This letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is an important next step to beginning the process of withdrawal.
Click here for more information on the bill.
Download a PDF of the letter from USDA here.
# # #