Cantwell, Murray Introduce Bill to Protect Methow Valley Headwaters from Development

Valley in Okanagan County attracts more than 1 million visitors annually, boosting local economy

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a new bill, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016, to protect 340,000 acres of National Forest in the Methow Valley from potential development of a large-scale mine. The legislation would restrict potential commercial activity and withdraw from mineral entry any deposits that could lead to an industrial-scale mine on the lands, and would protect the headwaters of the Methow River. The Methow Valley supports a robust local tourism economy, water resources, farming and ranching, and rural communities.

“Water issues in the Methow Valley are paramount. That is why copper mining that could impact rivers and salmon runs is something we can't risk,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

It is clear that the Methow Valley is a source of pride and is central to the region’s economic and environmental well-being,” said Senator Murray. “I am proud to work with the community to protect this environmentally sensitive area of the Methow River Valley, ensure critical federal investments in salmon recovery are protected, and continue to support the Valley’s thriving outdoor recreation economy.”

Nearly one million tourists visit the Methow Valley each year to enjoy the sun, snow, streams, wildlife and rural communities, and they contribute more than $150 million annually into Okanogan County’s economy. The upper Methow is essential to salmon recovery, and more than $100 million has been invested in restoration and conservation efforts in the Methow Valley alone. Federal, state, local, and private investments have gone to land protection, restoration, and restoration projects across the Methow River watershed, supporting outdoor recreation, farmland preservation, and salmon and wildlife habitat enhancement and restoration activities. The Upper Methow Valley is home to seven federally-protected fish and wildlife species, including the Northern spotted owl, grizzly bear, Canada lynx, spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Healthy and intact habitat is also home to bald and golden eagles, martens, mountain goats, mule and white-tailed deer, and wolves.