Merkley, Wyden Champion Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Face of New Threats

Merkley, Wyden Champion Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Face of New Threats

As the Trump Administration conducts an unprecedented “review” of national monuments, Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden remind the Interior Secretary of the strong local support and extensive public process that led to the expansion of the monument in January.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today pushed back on new threats from the Trump Administration that could jeopardize Oregon’s newly expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Senators noted the extensive local support and intensive public process that led to the expansion of the monument in January, and asked the Secretary to consult with Oregon’s Congressional delegation, local federally recognized tribes, and the State of Oregon before making any decisions about the monument.

On Friday, the Trump Administration confirmed that Cascade-Siskiyou is among the monuments that are being targeted for “review” under a new Executive Order issued by President Trump. It is widely expected that the Executive Order may lead to unprecedented, legally dubious attempts to shrink or undo national monuments established under the Antiquities Act.

“We are strong supporters of the monument, which has protected some of the most biodiverse public land in the United States since it was initially established in 2000,” the Senators wrote. “While we recognize that there will always be concerns about conservation management of monuments, we believe reasonable voices will agree that there was an extensive public input process that led to meaningful changes in response to concerns raised. We believe this is reflected by the diverse range of supporters of the expansion, including neighboring property owners, chambers of commerce, tribes, sportsmen, and others. […] We hope that you will consider the diverse public support and the public input process that led to expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as you review national monument designations.”

In the letter, the Senators outlined the extensive public process that preceded the expansion of the monument, including a public hearing in Ashland with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in October 2016; additional public hearings hosted by Jackson, Klamath, and Siskiyou Counties; and a written comment period sponsored by the Senators’ offices.

During the written comment period, the Senators received a total of 5,488 comments, all of which were shared with the Department of Interior so that the Department and the White House could take the feedback into account. Of those comments, 4,313 commenters supported the monument and 1,175 were opposed.

The Senators also detailed how the proposed monument expansion was specifically tailored to take into account local feedback from the public comment process.

The full text of Senator Merkley and Wyden’s letter follows below.

Oregonians wishing to weigh in with the Trump Administration about the future of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument may do so beginning on May 12. They can do so online at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

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May 8, 2017

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Zinke:

In light of President Trump’s recent Executive Order calling for a review of national monument designations, we are writing to provide you with important information about the public input process that led to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion, and how the proposal was modified in response to public feedback.

We are strong supporters of the monument, which has protected some of the most biodiverse public land in the United States since it was initially established in 2000. While we recognize that there will always be concerns about conservation management of monuments, we believe reasonable voices will agree that there was an extensive public input process that led to meaningful changes in response to concerns raised. We believe this is reflected by the diverse range of supporters of the expansion, including neighboring property owners, chambers of commerce, tribes, sportsmen, and others.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is important, in part because it was the first monument primarily dedicated to protecting biodiversity. After its modest expansion, it more fully encompasses an important ecological crossroads in an area of unique geology, biology, climate, and iconic American landscapes –where the volcanoes of the Cascade Range, the sage and juniper of the Basin and Range Province, and the world-renowned biodiversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains converge.

The proclamation followed an open and inclusive process that considered feedback from local communities and stakeholders. In April 2015, 85 scientists signed onto a report outlining the need to significantly expand the current monument boundaries to better protect the biological objects of interest the original monument was established to safeguard.

After review of this proposed expansion and based on feedback from stakeholders and landowners potentially impacted, Oregon’s Senators developed a significantly smaller map of the proposed 62,000-acre expansion. This proposal included areas proposed for conservation designations in legislative proposals for several years, as well as conservation designations that were already part of the BLM’s Resource Management Plan for Western Oregon.

Senator Merkley and former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor held a hearing in Ashland, Oregon -- the closest city to the monument -- to solicit public comment on the proposed expansion of the monument. Approximately 500 citizens attended this meeting in Ashland, with 83 testifying in support and 36 in opposition. In addition to the public meeting hosted by Senator Merkley, there were three additional public hearings in Klamath Falls (hosted by Klamath County), in Medford (hosted by Jackson County), and in Yreka (hosted by Siskiyou County) that were attended by approximately 600 people. The testimony at these hearings was evenly divided between support for and opposition to the expansion.

Senators Merkley and Wyden also established a written comment period to continue receiving public comment on the expansion proposal, for both those who did not, or could not attend a public meeting  to be able to submit more detailed written recommendations. Senator Merkley’s office received a total of 5,488 comments, all of which were shared with the Department of Interior so that the Department and the White House could take the feedback into account. Of those comments, 4,313 commenters supported the monument and 1,175 were opposed.

In addition to the feedback and support from the general public, the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument expansion enjoyed robust support from state and local elected officials, tribes, citizens, chambers of commerce, conservationists, and many local landowners. A partial list of the on-record support for the monument is attached.

The public input process led to substantive changes to the map to address concerns that had been raised. Ranchers that hold grazing leases in the Buck Mountain and Deadwood areas within the proposed expansion requested that their grazing allotments be excluded from the expansion boundaries. Senator Merkley’s office conveyed these requests to the Obama Administration. The Buck Mountain allotment was largely excluded from the final boundaries and the Deadwood allotment, which is located in a sensitive watershed, had more of its territory excluded than in earlier proposals.

As you know, only federal lands within an outer monument boundary are actually monument lands. Many private landowners within the existing monument and proposed monument expansion expressed their strong support for monument expansion and for being included within expanded monument boundaries. Nevertheless, some timber companies and other private landowners within the proposed expansion requested that 19 specific parcels be excluded. Ultimately, 14 of these parcels were excluded from the final boundary. In addition, approximately 7,000 acres of BLM land in Klamath County were excluded including parcels planned for timber management. To accommodate concerns over recreational access from some interested parties, the proclamation for the expansion provides for a new travel plan that could authorize reasonable off-road snowmobile and mountain bike use in the expansion.

Based on feedback from the public meeting and the comment period mentioned above, the final declaration included less than 48,000 acres, which is a reduction of over 14,000 acres from the discussion draft proposal put forward by Oregon’s Senators.

We hope that you will consider the diverse public support and the public input process that led to expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as you review national monument designations. We also request that you consult with members of the Oregon Congressional delegation, the State of Oregon and federally recognized local tribes before making any decisions about the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

 

 

Sincerely,