It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the state’s two U.S. Senators joining the effort to prevent not just copper exploration but also any future mining in the 340,000-acre Methow Headwaters area. (See story here)
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are co-sponsoring the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016, which would authorize a mineral leasing withdrawal of the entire area from mining or exploration.
The proposed action was encouraged by the Methow Headwaters Campaign, a locally based group opposed to the plans of a Canadian company, Blue River Resources Ltd, to get U.S. Forest Service approval for exploratory drilling around Flagg Mountain near Mazama. More than 100 local businesses and a variety of other organizations around the state support the group’s efforts.
The senators’ action offers a ray of hope to those of us who have, since the proposed drilling was first announced, been aghast at the prospect of a copper mining operation’s potential affects on the Methow Valley’s tourist-based economy and priceless environmental setting. Antiquated mining laws still allow interlopers like Blue River to conduct mineral explorations, which sounds innocuous in and of itself. But the ugliness, disruption and environmental catastrophe that characterize an open pit copper mine have no place in the Methow Valley or its environs. Mining would siphon money out of the valley for investors and likely leave unmitigated wreckage behind.
Despite some speculation that the mining proposal is little more than a penny stock ploy, Blue River has been relentless in its insistence on pursuing the exploratory drilling. The community must remain relentless in its opposition. We now have some powerful allies on our side, and should be grateful for their involvement.
The next phase
At a gathering last Friday evening that included Twisp town officials, tenants (“partners”) at the TwispWorks campus and TwispWorks board members, we got an eye-opening reminder of how much the former U.S. Forest Service complex has been transformed in the past several years.
It was almost shocking to see photos from the campus’ derelict days after the Forest Service left and before a public development authority was created to oversee its use as a community-oriented business campus. Determined renovation has created more space and drawn more partners, to the extent that there is very little unoccupied space left.
The next phase will, in a sense, be an outreach to the supporting community. Work on a central plaza that will include landscaped spaces, pedestrian pathways, seating areas and an outdoor, covered performing arts pavilion begins this summer. It’s easy to imagine the plaza becoming a popular gathering spot for events, or for just hanging out.
The original TwispWorks proposal was greeted with some suspicion about its intent and skepticism about its potential in some quarters, but the board and staff have worked steadily and confidently to bring the concept to life. TwispWorks is becoming a showcase example of how a small rural community can leverage donations, grants, commitment and a sound business plan into something special.
Tossing around ideas for a headline to accompany this week’s story about the departure of Ottis and Vikki Buzzard, one of us (you can probably figure out who) came up with, “Who’s going to save us now?”
Too flippant, we decided, but not far off the mark in the hearts and minds of many Methow Valley residents. Ottis and Vikki have been not just remarkably capable at their jobs — emergency medical care, policing, search and rescue operations and much more — but are also personable, approachable and devoted to the community.
We’ll miss their skills, to be sure — we won’t any longer be able to tell people that if you get in trouble out in the woods around here, you want to see the Buzzards coming — and more than that, we’ll miss their personalities and reassuring presence. We wish them the best in their new adventure.