The much-anticipated news came last Friday, and the Methow Valley’s residents and friends have been happily sharing it since: The U.S. Forest Service has recommended to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that 340,000 acres in the upper Methow Valley should be withdrawn from consideration for mining for at least 20 years.
That’s a huge and necessary step toward preserving a vast, pristine area that is economically vital to the valley, and symbolically representative of our values.
The bipartisan support of Democratic U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, along with Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, helped make it happen and they shared in applauding the decision. Their determination is appreciated. Other parts of the country where mining has been proposed are not faring as well, such as Minnesota’s wondrous Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The process won’t be complete until we get through to the end of the year with all the hurdles cleared. The BLM must now schedule a local public meeting on the proposal before a final determination on the withdrawal is made at the Department of the Interior.
A top official from Interior recently visited the valley for a close-up look at the land that is proposed for protection, and to hear about its value to the Methow Valley. That kind of consideration would likely not have happened but for the persistent efforts of the Headwaters Campaign organization and the alliance among our congressional delegation.
It would be a terrific Christmas present for the Methow if Interior approves the withdrawal recommendation.
The next phase
Along with relief, there was a little apprehension in the Winthrop Barn last week when leaders of the fourth and final Incident Management Team for the McLeod and Crescent Mountain fires told the community that they would be leaving soon, and handing things off to the local U.S. Forest Service contingent to manage the mostly-contained fires into winter.
We got used to having those guys around, especially given the circumstances. The vast tent camp at the Blues Ranch near Winthrop was reassuring, as were the dozens of trucks, planes and helicopters heading toward the fires daily. Over the past few months, we fell into the routine of watching the video updates on the fires every morning, and probably had our personal favorites among the “reporters.” The quantity and quality of public information were the best we’ve experienced in the past several years.
The good news at the community meeting in the Barn was that a summer’s worth of hard work by hundreds of firefighters had brought the fires to a near standstill. The community has been lavish in its appreciation for those efforts.
At that public meeting, it was the “now what” questions that dominated – what happens after the incident team leaves, what will be happening at the fire sites, how will information get to us in the future, what roads are open, what happens to the cleared timber that came out of the woods? We expect that those questions will be answered as quickly as possible. That’s a lot better than wondering when the evacuation alerts will be lifted.
Be sure to look inside …
We’re trying something a bit different this week, as a way to help community organizations get their messages out efficiently through the newspaper.
In this week’s A section, you will find a tabloid-size insert produced by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which is launching its Give Methow Campaign on Monday, Oct. 1. It’s a detailed guide to what the program is all about, how you can participate and follow the campaign’s progress, and the local organizations that will benefit from your generosity.
Inside of this week’s B section, you will find a tabloid-size insert produced by TwispWorks, which will catch you up on what’s happening at the campus, inform you about some special events in the next couple of weeks, and reintroduce you to the “partners” who make up the campus community.
It took a little effort to coordinate all this, and we are grateful for the time and care that the folks from the Community Foundation and TwispWorks invested in pulling together the material and dealing with the demand of production.
We hope you’ll find both inserts useful and engaging. It’s an approach to marketing that we will be looking for more opportunities to offer in the community.