Finally, and forever, more than 530 square miles of wild and scenic land at the headwaters of the Methow River will be protected from future mining.
The Methow Headwaters Protection Act became law Tuesday (March 12) as part of a sweeping package of bills protecting public lands, water and natural resources that was signed by President Trump.
The legislation has special significance for the Methow Valley because it includes a bill that permanently bans mining activities on 340,079 acres of rugged mountains in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest surrounding Mazama.
The signing of the legislation is the culmination of more than three years of local advocacy to gain protection for the federal lands at the upper end of the Methow Valley. The prospect of future mining on those public lands prompted creation of the Methow Headwaters Campaign, a grassroots effort that has pushed for federal action to protect the upper valley. The campaign drew support from local residents, business owners, elected officials, tribes, sportsmen, farmers and conservation organizations.
Maggie Coon of Twisp, who has been a leader of the campaign, said the community’s passionate involvement helped bring about protections that will be a legacy for the Methow Valley.
“On reflection, I realize how beautifully our community made the case for this protection with facts and figures. And even more important, we spoke to what we treasure about this place – I think that’s been a huge part of the success,” Coon said Tuesday. “We really came together as never before to protect our watershed. I have to say I’ve rarely been so proud to be a part of this remarkable community.” Coon said the Methow Headwaters Campaign plans to host a community celebration later this spring.
The Methow Headwaters Protection Act was introduced as a separate bill in two sessions of Congress by Washington’s senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, before it was included in the legislation, referred to as the “Public Lands Package,” signed into law this week.