Monument Expansion Violates O&C Act, Undermines Federal Land Management

Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a coalition supporting the active management of federally-owned forest lands, had the following to say regarding President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to expand the size of Cascade Siskiyou National Monument:

“President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to expand the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument is a violation of the O&C Act, and yet another blow to rural, forested communities in Southwest Oregon. 

“It is extremely disappointing to those who support multiple use management of our federal lands.  By making this unilateral decision, the Obama Administration ignored citizens who are concerned about how this expansion will affect private property, public access, local economy and businesses, mitigation against catastrophic wildfire, drought and other impacts.  Further reductions in timber harvests on O&C lands will also threaten the ability of rural counties to provide essential public services like sheriff patrols and jails for violent criminals.

“Unfortunately, these types of last-minute, half-baked decisions erode public trust in government and make communities directly impacted by the designation feel ignored and unheard.  There is limited support in Southern Oregon for this expansion.  Joining the many citizens who have expressed concerns and opposition to this plan include countiesarea legislators, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and others.

“Now more than ever, we need the incoming Trump Administration and the new Congress to fix our broken system of federal land management, and especially to achieve a long-term solution of the management of Western Oregon O&C lands.”

What others have said about the monument expansion:

Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce: Antiquities Act not the solution
“The Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors understand that federal lands within the proposed expansion area are special areas that provide a number of benefits to our residents and the American public. But we believe expanding the current Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument under the federal Antiquities Act is not the right solution for protecting and sustaining these lands for current and future generations.” (Read more of their letter)

State legislators representing Southern Oregon: Too many unanswered questions
“Public support for this proposal is not as widespread as proponents have suggested, especially as more citizens begin to learn of the expansion and how it would affect them, our economy and the use of our federal lands and natural resources. There are still many unanswered questions about the expansion. The Bureau of Land Management office in Medford has been unable to provide accurate maps and data to enable the public to learn more about how the expansion will actually work. We believe federal lands should be actively managed for multiple uses and multiple benefits. We are concerned the expansion of the national monument will severely limit the ability of the government to manage federal lands, especially when it comes to protecting our communities from catastrophic wildfire.” (Read more of their letter)

U.S. Congressmen: Expansion would limit feds’ ability to manage fire-prone forest land
“In Oregon, areas under the proposed expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument possess equally concerning ecological and management challenges. The areas include vast acreage at high risk of catastrophic wildfire and in need of treatment. A national monument designation would further restrict already abysmal federal management activities to improve forest health and treat high-risk, fire-prone areas. Further, the proposed expansion primarily includes O&C lands, which Congress provided for permanent forest production under the O&C Lands Act (Public Law 75-405). The Solicitor General for the Department of Interior previously affirmed that the President lacks authority under the Antiquities Act to include O&C lands in any monument designation.” (Read more of their letter)

Association of O&C Counties: Expansion threatens funding for essential public services
“Even leaving aside the question of Presidential authority under the Antiquities Act, AOCC is opposed to the proposed CSNM expansion. Numerous judicial decisions have made clear that O&C lands are dedicated by the O&C Act to sustained yield timber production to generate revenue for the O&C Counties and to provide an economic base for local industries and communities. Counties depend on shared timber receipts to pay for essential public services of all kinds, from public safety such as sheriff patrols and jails to public heath programs and libraries. When O&C lands are withdrawn from sustained yield management, there is a direct financial loss to County governments and a loss of services to local citizens. The proposed CSNM would permanently preclude sustained yield management on 53,100 acres.” (Read more of their letter)

Klamath County: Expansion includes over 50,000 acres of O&C Lands
“Klamath County continues to struggle to fund basic services, due in part, to the large amounts of federal lands that are currently within our county. These lands are exempt from important taxation that funds vital services for our local government. Of the 53,100 acres in the proposal, 50,900 of those acres are O&C Lands with approximately 19,000 of those O&C acres being in Klamath County.” (Read more of their letter)

Murphy Company: Expansion would hurt Southern Oregon’s rural communities
“Over the last few decades there has been a steady decline in the timber sale volumes produced from Federal Lands in Southern Oregon, particularly from the Medford BLM district. This decline has not only created a nearly catastrophic loss to the timber industry in Jackson and Josephine counties, but has put the lands under the Federal management in dire forest health. The continuation of putting public lands off limits to management will only make matters worse, and ultimately lead to more catastrophic forest health and loss in the form of large, stand replacing wildfire and insect and disease infestations. Please carefully consider your decision to expand the monument on the basis of merely placing more lands off limits that are critical for supporting our rural communities.” (Read more of their letter)

Siskiyou County: Federal lands should be managed for the benefit of all Americans
“We urge you to reconsider the proposal to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and instead manage this land for the benefit of all United States citizens, including the local public, who depend on it for economic, recreational, grazing, and forest management purposes. Siskiyou County remains opposed to Monument expansion, and any other Monument designation due to its impacts on the public, local economy and overall health and management of the land.” (Read more of their letter)

Jackson County: Scientific justification for monument expansion is questionable
“The expansion has been presented by supporters as “Science-Based.” We have not received copies of any scientific research or report. What we do know is that in the past, for other federal actions, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has conducted Environmental Impact Studies (EISs) in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and provided Jackson County with their scientific outcomes. Not one of these reports identified issues that would warrant or recommen the proposed expansion as a solution.” (Read more of their letter)

Bend Bulletin Editorial: No to Cascades-Siskiyou expansion
“The timber industry was part of the economic backbone of both counties through the 1980s, but is no longer. The Endangered Species Act and the listing of a variety of birds, fish, mammals and even plants have restricted logging almost to the point of extinction, and as it has declined, so, too have the Oregon & California Railroad Lands payments that were a key part of both counties’ financial resources. Wyden’s Secure Rural Schools Act made up for some of that loss, but payments under it, too, have declined dramatically. Klamath County, meanwhile, has suffered under the added burden of water wars that remain unsettled today and continue to take a toll on agriculture in the area. All this adds up to poverty levels in the 20 percent range for both counties, well above Deschutes County’s 13 percent, and household incomes are lower overall, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those are solid reasons for less, not more, restrictions on federal land in the two counties. They’re solid reasons, too, for ending the practice of setting aside federal lands by presidential fiat. Rather, this expansion and all others should be considered by Congress, not by a single individual nearing the end of a political career and answerable to no one.” (Read the full editorial)

Herald and News Editorial: Take monument expansion out of rush-rush ode
“There needs to be more discussion on the proposal, more interaction among local government, the senators, the public and federal agencies. Perhaps some consideration even should be given to the amount of land already in federal hands, 52.9 percent of the state, and the loss of property taxes that means. Those taxes could be used to support local services. The expansion needs a good decision. The “do it before Obama leaves office” atmosphere won’t make for one.” (Read the full editorial)

Capital Press Editorial: The other monumental mistake
A particularly insidious feature of this latest proposal — backed by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both D-Ore. — is that 34,000 privately owned acres will be included in the new lock-up. That’s on top of 19,000 privately owned acres already within the monument. If the monument is ultimately expanded, about 40 percent of it will be privately owned. That means private ranches could lose grazing allotments and access to timber land could be lost as the Bureau of Land Management closes roads. What proponents don’t say is hikers can now enjoy the land without adding 1 square inch to the monument. Nothing has to be done to make it “better.” (Read the full editorial)

Monument Expansion Violates O&C Act, Undermines Federal Land Management