WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bill protecting the Methow Headwaters area from mining has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now goes to the president for his signature.
The public lands package, sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., passed the House 363-62 with no amendments. It previously passed in the Senate 92-8.
The bill also permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has invested more than $675 million in more than 600 Washington state projects; addresses water challenges in the Yakima Basin; designates Mountains to Sound Greenway as a national heritage area; updates volcano monitoring and early warning systems; provides 21st century technology to firefighters; designates the Nordic Museum, Seattle, as the National Nordic Museum, and includes the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act.
Cantwell said the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, which is included in the public lands package, will permanently protect the Methow Valley watershed by removing 340,079 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from potential mining development.
“This is a tremendous outcome for our community and an exceptional demonstration of bipartisan cooperation,” said Maggie Coon of the Methow Headwaters Campaign. “We look forward to the president quickly signing the bill.”
She said the bill’s passage represents “a truly remarkable confluence of events. It is a magnificent testament to our ability as a Methow Valley community to unify and to raise our voices for the future we want.”
Methow Headwaters Campaign formed after a Canadian company proposed in 2014 to explore developing a copper mine in the area near Mazama.
The group received support from Methow Valley town councils, chambers of commerce, hunters, anglers, backcountry horsemen, farmers, outdoor recreation, tribes, civic leaders and others.
The Methow Headwaters area is surrounded by lands that include North Cascades National Park, the Pasayten Wilderness Area and North Cascades Scenic Highway.
Methow Headwaters Campaign said the headwaters are the source of water that sustains the fish, farms and communities of the Methow Valley, provides critical habitat for the state’s largest mule deer population and offers “an unparalleled landscape for world-class outdoor recreation.”
The group acknowledged efforts of Cantwell, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-4th District.
“They recognize that the lands and waters of the Methow Valley are irreplaceable,” said Coon. “While there are places where mining is appropriate, such industrial activity in the Methow Valley would upend the very qualities that support our economy.”
“While the community embraces resource development and has a long history of mining, it is also widely recognized that the Methow Headwaters is a natural wonder and is central to the region’s thriving recreational economy,” said Newhouse. “I could not be more pleased that the legislation is headed to President (Donald) Trump for his signature into law.”
The Colville Confederated Tribes also applauded the bill’s passage.
“This act will provide protection of Methow … ancestral homelands and prevent development of large-scale mining that would desecrate our sacred sites, gathering areas, fish habitat and threaten the health of local communities,” said Rodney Cawston, Colville Business Council chairman.