News Releases

Murray-Cantwell proposal considered today during Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources hearing 

Proposal would make 340,000 acres of existing federal lands in Okanogan County, including critical streams and creeks, off-limits to mining 

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

Map here 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 took an important step forward when it was considered in a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the bill in May to protect 340,000 acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee 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 next step for the bill is a full committee vote, which will move it to the full Senate if it passes.

“It’s encouraging to see forward momentum in Congress on our proposal to protect a prized part of Washington state,” Senator Murray said. “I will keep working with my Senate colleagues to ensure this bill clears the next hurdle, because it is so important to protect ongoing investments in salmon recovery by federal, state, local, and tribal partners and the outdoor economy that the region depends on. I will keep working every possible avenue – including administrative action – to protect this special place.”

“This bill is about two things: clean water and keeping an amazing place the way it is. I strongly urge the agencies to use their authority to immediately protect the Methow headwaters in support of this legislation,” said Senator Cantwell.

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 habitat restoration projects across the Methow River watershed, supporting outdoor recreation, farmland preservation, and salmon and wildlife habitat enhancement 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.