A public lands bill that includes the Methow Headwaters mineral withdrawal, which would provide permanent protection from mining to more than 500 square miles in the upper Methow Valley, was being discussed on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday (Feb 5).
The bipartisan Natural Resources Management Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), is a package of more than 100 bills dealing with public lands, natural resources and water.
The bill includes the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, which will permanently protect 340,079 acres of mountainous Forest Service land in the upper Methow Valley from future mining. A grassroots campaign has lobbied for more than three years for a mineral withdrawal that would prohibit mining on the designated lands.
In addition to the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, a number of other Washington state public lands priorities are included in the bill. They are:
• The Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, which authorizes an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing water challenges in the Yakima Valley. The bill will restore ecosystems and fisheries, ensure communities have access to water, help rehabilitate and repair the Wapato Irrigation Project, and extend water supplies for farmers in times of drought.
• Cantwell’s public lands package includes the Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act, which will increase safety for firefighters and bring firefighting agencies across the country into the 21st century through the use of GPS and unmanned aircraft systems.
• The bill includes language designating the Nordic Museum in Seattle as the National Nordic Museum, recognizing the museum’s unique work to preserve, celebrate, and educate the American public about Nordic history, culture, and art.
The 660-page legislative package includes measures to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It also increases access and opportunities for sportsmen for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities on federal lands; provides for economic development in dozens of communities through land exchanges and conveyances; and conserves lands of special importance as long as protections are supported by the affected state and surrounding communities.