Don’t open Washington’s scenic Methow Valley to copper mining

Hunting in the vast national forests supported by the Methow Valley Headwaters is an important part of the recreation economy and way of life of the valley. 

Photo: Hannah Dewey

Mining in an iconic Pacific Northwest landscape would prove disastrous for the local community and its economy.

The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service will soon decide whether to allow copper mining in Washington’s scenic Methow Valley, an important gateway to North Cascades National Park.

If they approve mining proposals, nearly 340,000 acres of national forest lands will be at risk to road building, deforestation and pollution that goes hand in hand with industrial-scale mining.

The Methow Valley draws 1 million visitors annually to hike the lush valleys, fish for native trout and watch wildlife like spotted owl and lynx. A large scale copper mine would not only devastate the $150 million outdoor recreation economy of the local county, but also pollute the rivers that support a $100 million dollar effort in salmon population recovery.

Until March 30, the Bureau of Land Management accepted public comments in support or against mining in this incredible Pacific Northwest landscape. 

Lifeblood of the community

More than 140 local businesses support protecting the Methow Headwaters from mining. From farmers to outdoor retailers and local tribes, community members from every walk of life have come together to tell their story on why this valley is no place for a mine.

Methow Valley: Too special to mine

Movement in Congress spurred the Bureau of Land Management to temporarily ban mining and ask for public comments as they assess the long-term future of the Valley.

The Methow Headwaters Protection Act—a bill introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) earlier in March—calls for permanent protection of hundreds of thousands of acres in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. If passed, this bill would create lasting protections from new industrial-scale mine development in the Methow Valley.

“Water is the lifeblood of the economy in the Methow Valley. With so many salmon, farmers and outdoor recreationists dependent on clean water, we can’t risk opening the area to copper mining.” said Senator Cantwell.

The fight isn’t over—the Bureau of Land Management could still decide to allow mining unless we speak up for our waterways and forests in the Pacific Northwest. 

Too much at risk

In the Methow Valley, millions of acres of public land provide countless recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike, from skiing in the nation’s largest Nordic ski trail system to biking rugged mountain trails. Home to the largest mule deer herd, wolverines and more than 150 species of birds, this unfragmented landscape supports a critical North Cascades ecosystem.

Rivers in the valley have been restored for critical fish habitat. Photo: Hannah Dewey 

In response to community demands and campaign efforts to protect the area from mining, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service has kicked off a two-year planning period to evaluate making the headwaters of the Methow Valley off-limits to industrial-scale mining and exploration for up to 20 years.

Let’s protect these last wild places for future generations to enjoy—industrial-scale mining in the Methow Valley would destroy the rural character, clean waters and natural beauty that support a resilient economy based on outdoor recreation, scenic tourism and agriculture.