PORTLAND, Ore. – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Donald Trump reduce the size of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and three other monuments.
The recommendation came the day after President Donald Trump proclaimed two Utah national monuments will shrink significantly. Zinke had previously recommended the changes but issued a final report on Tuesday.
In Utah on Monday, Trump said Bears Ears National Monument will shrink by 85 percent to 220,000 acres from 1.5 million, and the Grand Staircase-Esalante National Monument will be halved, to about 1 million acres.
Zinke recommended that Trump shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou, which covers 112,000 acres in southern Oregon, Gold Butte in Nevada, and change the boundaries of two marine national monuments: The Pacific Remote Islands and the Rose Atoll.
Zinke also recommended adding three new monuments: The Badger II Medicine Area in Montana, Camp Nelson in Kentucky, and the Medgar Evers Home in Mississippi.
“As I visited the Monuments across this country, I met with Americans on all sides of the issue — from ranchers to conservationists to tribal leaders — and found that we agree on wanting to protect our heritage while still allowing public access to public land,” Zinke said on Tuesday. “My recommendations to the President reflect that, in some circumstances, proclamations should be amended, boundaries revised, and management plans updated.”
The federal government has not specifically said how much of Cascade-Siskiyou or the other three monuments that Zinke believes should be removed from the national monument designation. Cascade-Siskiyou was originally designated a national monument by Bill Clinton in 2000. In 2017, President Obama added about 48,000 acres to the original 52,000-acre monument, to protect biodiversity in the region.
“The boundary should be revised through the use of appropriate authority, including lawful exercise of your discretion granted by the Act, in order to address impacts on private lands and to address issues concerning the designation and reservation of O&C Lands as part of the monument and the impacts on commercial timber production,” Zinke said of Cascade-Siskiyou in his report.
The Bureau of Land Management for Oregon and Washington issued a statement and said the land would remain in federal ownership, managed by whichever agency managed the land before it was designated a national monument. For the Cascade-Siskiyou, that agency is the BLM.
Trump has yet to announce whether he will heed Zinke’s recommendation to shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou.
Oregon leaders speak out
Democratic Oregon lawmakers issued statements in support of preserving Oregon’s national monument.
“Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency’s damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure.”
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said his office will keep fighting to protect public lands.
“These places, like so many other public lands (including Oregon’s own Cascade-Siskiyou), hold cultural, environmental, economic, and recreational value that belong to all Americans, not just a select few. Honoring Native American cultural artifacts and celebrating the incredible biodiversity of these places should be of paramount importance for our nation’s leaders. Instead, the administration is opening the door for private industry to strip them bare,” Blumenauer said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) called Trump’s move a “monumental mistake.”
“The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a unique and special place, unlike anywhere else in the United States. The Trump administration is ignoring the voices of thousands of Oregonians who have spoken out in favor of the monument, and is recklessly risking the future of irreplaceable biodiversity and natural wonder,” Merkley said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she will “continue fighting to keep our public lands in public hands.”
“I’m deeply troubled by this move and will fight vigorously to prevent any scale-back of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,” Brown said.
The governor’s office previously said she may sue if Trump decides to shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou.
Oregon’s only Republican U.S. Congressman, Rep. Greg Walden, said he supports Zinke’s recommendation.
“This recommendation responds to the concerns I heard raised by foresters, private land owners, county commissioners, ranchers, and others,” Walden said in a statement. “I’m confident that the modifications recommended today will help achieve that balance and restore the local voice to the land management process.”
Trump’s decision to reduce the two Utah monuments was unprecedented, but the president said he made the proclamation because previous administrations abused the purpose of the Antiquities Act and overstepped their authority by expanding the monuments.
Trump said the declaration returns the land to local people, a move that some ranchers and local governments supported. Critics say the move opens land to environmental destruction, desecration of historic sites and corporate interests, including energy exploration.
Several environmental advocates and tribal groups said will fight Trump’s declaration.
Zinke originally reviewed 27 national monuments, the Department of the Interior said in September.