Before fall completely ends, I want to share some pics of a great day we had a few weeks back, up in an area I'd been only once before. It's not right on the main highway, so it's not as well known as some other spots, and in the spirit of keeping some magic in finding new places, pouring over maps, and creating adventure, I won't say exactly where we went. I will say, however, that we were in the headwaters of the Methow river: a large swath of land that provides the Methow drainage, including our little towns, clean water for wildlife and fish habitat, agriculture, recreation, and living, that is threatened by a proposed copper mine.
Sam and I first heard of the Canadian company's desires before our move in 2014. I studied the Mining Act of 1872 in college and knew the ability to file for a permit, but naively thoughtthat it would never be allowed in our modern climate, and didn't think much of it. Over the next year, plans continued and Methow Headwaters was born to protect our watershed from exploratory mining, "the first step to developing a large-scale, likely open-pit mine in Mazama (Methow Headwaters, 2016)." If you've ever driven through Butte, Montana, you've seen what an open-pit mine looks like. Worse than looks, of course, is the environmental devastation left in its wake: the Berkeley Pit remains a huge superfund site that threatens area ground water.
My environmental activist self laid dormant for many years post college, but imagining a similar fate here is just too much. I don't pretend to believe that I have the impact to stop this, but I do want to do everything I can to get the word out, and help Methow Headwaters in their fantastic efforts. Their proposal "secure(s) a “mineral withdrawal” for the federal lands that compose the headwaters of the Methow watershed, approximately 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land (Methow Headwaters, 2016)". In May, US Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray introduced legislation, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, to do just that. Since then, the Forest Serviced announced, around the same time as our little adventure (coincidence?) that they plan to protect the area from mining. While this is promising news, there is still work to ensure that the Forest Service follows through, especially as administrations change. What can we do? First of all, write a letter. The more the agency hears that action needs to be taken, the sooner the two-year planning period begins. Secondly, spread the love of the Methow. If you're on Instagram, use the following tags: @methowheadwaters, #nomazamamine, #worthprotecting, #ourmethow. Finally, support our friends at Methow Headwaters by signing their petition, join their mailing list, and if you feel inclined, donate to the cause.
This matters to us because we live here, but ultimately, we are all affected. If it's not here, it's somewhere else, and these areas are necessary: for a clean watershed for wildlife, salmon and other fish, and us, but also for our mental health. We might be training for a race, or excited to see a new, beautiful place, but these wild places change us. As society becomes more connected and bound by technology (which I'm a fan of, don't get me wrong), having places to go where we can truly unplug-places where the only sounds are of the birds above, and our lungs' effort become increasingly important.