Wyden and Merkley still in the dark on plan to shrink Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

More than a month after a draft plan from the Trump administration to shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument leaked, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said they have yet to be briefed about the plan.

The Democratic senators blasted the draft report from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive on Sept. 18 as inaccurate and misleading and said they were “disappointed” to still be waiting for more details.

Wyden and Merkley addressed a letter to President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, on Tuesday expressing their frustration with the process.

Among the inaccuracies they cited: Zinke’s 19-page draft falsely stated that the 113,000-acre protected area where the Cascade, Klamath and Siskiyou mountains converge prohibits motorized travel and remaining roads are “unpassable and unsuitable for use.”

“Neither the original designation nor the expansion,” the senators said, citing the 2017 expansion approved by then-President Barack Obama, “prohibits the use of motorized transportation in the monument.” The senators said, “hundreds of miles of roads” are open and usable in the monument.

Zinke also suggested the administration would protect hunting and fishing rights in the area, which Wyden and Merkley said are not currently under threat. “Neither the original nor the expanded monument proclamation reduce hunting and fishing rights,” the senators said.

The Trump administration also cites a lack of public process as another reason the monument should be reduced in size. The senators said extensive public process actually led to substantial changes to the most recent expansion. After hearing from thousands of Southern Oregon residents, the monument expansion proposal pushed by Wyden and Merkley shrank by 14,000 acres, they said.

The Department of the Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zinke, a former Montana Congressman, recommended shrinking the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon and five other protected areas after a 120-day review period.

He visited Oregon this summer and met with Gov. Kate Brown in private to discuss the matter.

Zinke also met with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican who represents the district comprising the monument.

In September, Walden said in a statement he appreciated Zinke spending time listening to stakeholders on his visit this summer. “Southern Oregonians deeply value their public lands while maintaining healthy support for private property rights and the need to properly fund our local schools,” Walden said in a statement. “It’s clear the Secretary heard these concerns as reflected in his recommendation to the President.”