Proposed Mine Threatens Methow Headwaters

In Washington by Nick Chambers

The Methow River is one of Washington’s most iconic rivers for steelhead fishing and other outdoor pursuits, and it continues to be a Pacific Northwest mecca for anglers, hunters, recreationists, and conservationists alike. But proposed large-scale copper mining on Flagg Mountain, within the headwaters of the Methow River, directly threatens this investment and poses a serious threat to these fish species whose populations are already at critically low levels.






Originating in the heart of the remote and majestic North Cascades Mountains, the Methow River provides key habitat for a bounty of native fish species, including three species of Endangered Species Act (ESA)–listed salmonids: Upper Columbia spring Chinook, Upper Columbia steelhead trout, and bull trout. Salmon and steelhead must travel more than 500 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River and navigate nine dams to reach their spawning grounds in the Methow River and its tributaries.


Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Program has invested millions of dollars and thousands of staff hours to work hand-in-hand with the community over the past 10 years on projects throughout the Methow River watershed. These projects have improved instream flows and habitat for our native fish. Collectively, they have returned more than 30 cubic feet per second to streams and tributaries, improved miles of stream habitat, and helped hundreds of landowners improve water-use efficiency on their agricultural lands – creating a win-win situation for farmers, community and fish in the Methow River watershed.

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Tremendous demands on a over-allocated and severely limited water supply, significant risk of ground and surface water contamination and erosion and sedimentation impacts are just a few reasons why a large-scale mine in the headwaters of the Methow is an extremely risky proposition. Given the critical status of our native fish stocks in the Methow River – not to mention the other ESA-listed wildlife species in the area – this is a risk we cannot afford to take.



Please join the effort to help us convince the Forest Service and the Department of Interior for the need to shield the headwaters of the Methow River from large-scale mining through an administrative mineral withdrawal. Visit to learn more about this effort and to find out how you can help, or email with questions/comments.