Wyden, Merkley chide Zinke over monument report

Oregon’s two Democratic U.S. senators Wednesday pushed back against the still-unreleased Trump administration report recommending downsizing of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, citing inaccuracies and lack of transparency in its development.

In a Wednesday letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said the Trump administration has yet to share the August report with them. They’ve seen only a leaked version that included mistakes, they said.

Among other things, the leaked copy of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s September draft report to President Donald Trump understates statutory requirements of O&C Act lands within the monument and incorrectly says that motorized vehicles were banned in the original monument designation in 2000, the letter states.

The senators also believe the draft mistakenly implies that hunting and fishing “rights” are in jeopardy within the monument, and that the monument proclamation should be amended to protect them, the letter states.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manages hunting and fishing within the monument, where there are legal hunting and angling seasons and opportunities.

“Had we been appropriately consulted, we could have easily addressed these errors prior to the report being sent to the President,” the letter states.

The letter also details the extent of public comment opportunities on this year’s monument expansion, including the amount of public support.

The Bureau of Land Management, which manages the 113,008-acre monument in southeast Jackson County, parts of Klamath County and Siskiyou County, California, referred all comments to an Interior Department press email account.

Emails to the Interior email account seeking comment have not been returned, and similar attempts in the past also have gone unanswered.

The letter came a day before environmental groups sued the administration, saying the Interior Department illegally ignored Freedom of Information Act requests to release Zinke’s draft report.

Earlier this year, Trump ordered Zinke to evaluate 27 national monuments for possible downsizing, and Zinke’s draft report purportedly names the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, as well as two others in Utah, one in Nevada and two marine monuments in the Pacific.

The review, to see whether past administrations have misused the 101-year-old Antiquities Act to create or expand national monuments, came on the heels of former President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, described in part as an effort to better protect rare plant and animal species threatened by climate change.

The monument now covers 113,008 acres within a 170,408-acre footprint that includes 57,400 acres of private land where monument restrictions do not apply.