The Methow Valley often is in do-it-ourselves mode when it comes to protecting our economic and environmental concerns. Were it not for the various advocacy groups, ad hoc coalitions, nonprofit organizations and fearless individuals that look out for the valley’s long-term interests and economic sustainability, we’d be overrun with bad ideas that threaten the very nature of the place.
Lawsuits and aggressive community-based actions are often our only recourse — and sadly necessary. To use a “Star Trek” analogy, you can’t fight the Borg if you really believe that resistance is futile. We don’t have to be assimilated.
Such is the attitude behind the people who put together the Methow Headwaters Campaign that is being officially launched this weekend with a Valentine’s Day meeting at the Winthrop Barn, starting at 3:30 p.m. It’s a broad-based group that represents both specific and overarching interests in preventing industrial mining in the valley.
About 70 local businesses representing outdoor recreation, agriculture, hospitality, real estate, health care and construction are part of the effort. Support is also coming from the Methow Valley Citizens Council, the Wilderness Society, Conservation Northwest and the Okanogan Highlands Alliance.
The proximate motivation for the campaign is a proposal to conduct exploratory drilling for copper on Flagg Mountain near Mazama. A Canadian firm is behind the latest effort to find an extraction-based reason to deface the Methow.
Beyond that, says organizer Bill Pope, the campaign is aimed at protecting the valley from any kind of long-term mining proposals that would harm the environment and undermine our tourism-based economy.
Nothing brutalizes a landscape quite like a big copper mine. Ask anyone who’s lived near one and watched the ugly devastation spread. It’s unconceivable that such an operation could do anything but erode our economic base, which is so dependent on the beauty, charm and accessibility of our wilderness setting.
Even if a mine created a few local jobs — and it’s uncertain what those might be — the profits would go out of the community while we live with the truck traffic, pollution and unalterable damage to the surrounding areas while tourists look for other places to spend their time and dollars.
We’re forced to contend with that possibility in part because of an archaic federal mining law that essentially puts the U.S. Forest Service in the position — unwittingly or otherwise — of facilitating the exploration efforts. The Forest Service has yet to make a decision on permitting the drilling.
It may not be possible to entirely stop the exploratory drilling efforts, given the weight of law and precedent. But we could certainly make it unpleasant if not downright difficult for the Canadian company, or any of its contractors, to do business here in the face of powerful community opposition. Already, the Winthrop Town Council has refused to provide water from its town resources that could be used for the drilling process. Such actions, no matter how mundane, do matter. Cumulatively they could matter a lot.
If you think it’s worth your time and effort (and possibly some of your money) to support a campaign to preserve what’s special about the Methow Valley, drop by the Barn on Sunday. It’s a casual event, and there will be food, music and familiar faces — just like so many other Methow gatherings.
Here we go again
Despite devoting so much energy to fighting against wolves, cougars, bears, wolverines, smart planning, access to public roads, environmental protections, and state, federal and local governments, the county commissioners apparently have time on their hands to come up with more bad ideas.
There are many things that could be said about the commissioners’ interest in possibly moving the county’s juvenile detention facility to someplace several counties away. Most of them would not be complimentary.
The fundamental concern is, how would such move help the county? A lot of people thought it was a bad idea when raised in the past; a lot of people feel the same way today. As Okanogan County Superior Court Justice Christopher Culp recently asked, what’s different now?