Climbers Help Protect Methow Headwaters and Mountains to Sound Greenway

Access Fund celebrates the role that climbers played in getting the Methow Headwaters Protection Act and Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act through Congress. These two critical conservation bills were included in the Natural Resources Management Act, which is now on its way to the White House to be signed into law.

Photo courtesy of © Jonathan Vickers

The Methow Headwaters is home to some of the most outstanding climbing and mountaineering in Washington state, including the sport climbs up the Chewack River, the massive multi-pitch climbing on the Goat Wall, alpine rock climbing and glacier mountaineering around the Silver Star Massif, cragging near Robinson Creek, and mountaineering and long alpine rock climbs along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In 2014, this spectacular region of Washington was threatened when a mining company filed for permits to conduct exploratory drilling for copper on Goat Peak at the north end of the Methow Valley. A large-scale mine would devastate the upper Methow region.

In response, Access Fund joined the Methow Headwaters Campaign—a coalition of local businesses, community members, non-profit partners, and elected officials—to advocate for the Methow Headwaters Protection Act. This legislation is now poised to be signed into law, and it will permanently withdraw 340,000 acres of National Forest lands in and around the Methow Headwaters and prevent future mining, including the prospect of a large-scale copper mine on Goat Peak.

The good news doesn’t end with Methow Headwaters Protection Act. The historic public lands package also officially designates the Mountains to Sound Greenway, an outdoor paradise for rock climbing, as a National Heritage Area, protecting this phenomenal landscape and enhancing recreation opportunities. The Mountains to Sound Greenway is also home to 1,600 miles of trails, excellent whitewater paddling, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, and mountain biking.

Access Fund and its Washington Outdoor Alliance partners brought together the combined voices of the climbing, hiking, paddling, and mountain biking communities to support the Mountains to Sound Greenway designation.

“This National Heritage Area designation will create a framework that will help Access Fund and our partners conserve the climbing environment along the Greenway,” says Joe Sambataro, Northwest Regional Director with Access Fund.

The Natural Resources Management Act also includes national victories for climbers, including permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been used to acquire and protect 12 climbing areas across the country. The Emery County Public Land Management Act also passed, protecting climbing at San Rafael Swell in Utah, creating nearly 700,000 acres of Wilderness, and setting a strong precedent for the protection of Wilderness climbing across the country.

“Access Fund would like to sincerely thank Senator Maria Cantwell for tirelessly championing these efforts here in Washington and across the nation, as well as Senator Patty Murray for her continuous support of LWCF and public lands,” says Access Fund Board President Jonah Harrison. “The wave of bipartisan leadership from all 12 Washington state congressional members helped get this bill through Congress.”

Access Fund would also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to its members and the climbing advocacy community for rallying behind the public lands package. Access Fund members wrote nearly 10,000 letters to Congress to show their support, and they were critical in passing this historic public lands package. Northwest climbers alone wrote nearly 1,500 letters in support of Methow Headwaters and the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

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