[Senate Report 115-106]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                                                   Calendar No. 142

115th Congress}                                            { Report
 1st Session  }                                            { 115-106


                 June 13, 2017.--Ordered to be printed


        Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural 
                   Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 566]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 566) to withdraw certain land in Okanogan 
County, Washington, to protect the land, and for other 
purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon 
without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.


    The purpose of S. 566 is to withdraw certain land in 
Okanogan County, Washington, to protect the land from potential 
mineral development.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    The Methow River watershed in Okanogan County, Washington, 
supports outdoor recreation, farming, and salmon and other 
wildlife habitat. Seven federally protected fish and wildlife 
species are found in the area, including the Northern spotted 
owl, grizzly bear, Canada lynx, spring Chinook salmon, 
steelhead, and bull trout. The watershed is also home to bald 
and golden eagles, martens, mountain goats, mule and white-
tailed deer, and wolves. More than $100 million has been 
invested in restoration and conservation efforts in the Methow 
Valley through Federal, state, local, and private investment.
    In 2013, Blue River Resources Ltd., a Canadian mining 
company, filed an application with the U.S. Forest Service to 
conduct exploration activity on land located within the 
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on Flagg Mountain, above the 
community of Mazama, Washington. The exploration would allow 
the company to assess a known ore deposit that the company 
believes might contain as much as one billion pounds of copper 
and other minerals. Under the General Mining Law of 1872, the 
company has a right to explore for and develop mineral rights 
on federal lands.
    Shortly thereafter, many in the local community sought to 
protect the Methow headwaters from potential threats by 
withdrawing the area from mineral entry. A withdrawal does not 
prevent all mining from occurring because it leaves in place 
valid existing rights but it imposes validity determination 
requirements that could make future mining far less likely.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 566 was introduced by Senators Cantwell and Murray on 
March 8, 2017.
    In the 114th Congress, Senators Murray and Cantwell 
introduced a similar bill, S. 2991, on May 25, 2016. The 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the 
bill on September 22, 2016.
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in an 
open business session on March 30, 2017, and ordered S. 566 
favorably reported without amendment.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open 
business session on March 30, 2017, by a majority voice vote of 
a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 566.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section 1. Short title

    Section 1 provides a short title for the measure.

Section 2. Methow Valley, Washington, Federal land withdrawal

    Section 2(a) describes the map depicting the lands to be 
    Subsection (b) withdraws approximately 340,079 acres of 
Federal land from all entry, appropriation, disposal, location, 
and patent under public land laws, mining laws, and geothermal 
leasing laws.
    Subsection (c) mandates that any land located within the 
area of the Map that is acquired by the United States after 
enactment of this Act shall, on acquisition, be immediately 
withdrawn in accordance with this section.
    Subsection (d) requires the map to be kept on file and made 
available for inspection by the appropriate offices of the 
Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.


    The following estimate of the costs of this measure has 
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
    S. 566 would withdraw 340,000 acres of federal land in the 
state of Washington from programs to develop any geothermal and 
mineral resources on that land. Based on information from the 
Forest Service, CBO expects that the affected lands will not 
generate any income over the next 10 years under current law, 
and costs to administer the land would not significantly change 
under the bill. Pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply because 
enacting the legislation would not affect direct spending or 
    CBO estimates that enacting S. 566 would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    S. 566 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jeff LaFave. The 
estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.


    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 566. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 566, as ordered reported.


    S. 566, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    Because S. 566 is similar to legislation considered by the 
Committee in the 114th Congress, the Committee did not request 
Executive Agency views. The testimony provided by the U.S. 
Forest Service at the hearing before the Committee on Energy 
and Natural Resources hearing on September 22, 2016, follows:

   Statement of Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief, National Forest System, 
             Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Madam Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for 
the opportunity to present the views of the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) regarding S. 346, S. 2991, S. 3192, S. 3203, 
S. 3254, and S. 3273.

       s. 2991, ``the methow headwaters protection act of 2016''

    S. 2991 proposes to withdraw approximately 340,079 acres of 
Federal land and interests in the land located in the Okanogan-
Wenatchee National Forest from all forms of mineral 
development. The Methow region is one of several areas on 
National Forest System lands across the country where the USDA 
Forest Service is analyzing complex and often controversial 
potential mineral activities. The agency anticipated completing 
the NEPA environmental assessment and making a decision during 
the summer of 2016 regarding a proposed permit for mineral 
exploration. However, through the public engagement process and 
subsequent analysis, several new considerations have surfaced, 
including tribal concerns regarding the impacts of mining 
activity in the area proposed for exploration. The Department 
of Agriculture supports S. 2291 and believes a mineral 
withdrawal is the best path toward mitigating any impacts to 
the ecological, cultural and economic significance of the 
Methow Valley to the surrounding community.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill as ordered