A top official with the U.S. Forest Service says her department is taking steps to prevent future mining on about 340,000 acres of federal lands in Washington's Methow Valley.
Leslie Weldon, deputy chief of the national forest system, says the agency will begin working on a process to withdraw the federal lands in north-central Washington from future mining. She made the comments when asked by Sen. Maria Cantwell at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday.
Weldon said the agency also supports legislation introduced by Cantwell and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to permanently make federal lands in north-central Washington off-limits to mining operations.
In 2014, Blue River Resources filed a permit to drill up to 15 exploratory holes in Okanogan County to assess copper deposits. A message left with the company was not immediately returned.
A permit decision was expected over the summer but was delayed after the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation raised concerns.