Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that four large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up hundreds of thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development.
The Interior Secretary's plan would scale back Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou. The monument encompass more than 112,000-acres.
No president has tried to reverse a national monument designation.
There’s reason to doubt that doing so would be legal.
We are disappointed by this decision. The thought of reversing protections on even part of this pristine land is short-sighted, indeed.
US legislators representing parts of the land have also expressed their disappointment.
"I appreciate Secretary Zinke taking a couple of days this summer to see the monument area and listen to the many viewpoints, said Second District Rep. Greg Walden. Southern Oregonians deeply value their public lands while maintaining healthy support for private property rights and the need to properly fund our local schools. It's clear the Secretary heard these concerns as reflected in his recommendation to the President."
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkely referred to this move as an "attack."
“This attack on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is an attack on our American tradition of protecting public lands that are open to all,” said Merkley. “Using an unprecedented and legally dubious strategy, President Trump is threatening one of the most biodiverse places in America and ignoring the extensive public process that informed the expansion of the monument. Instead of trying to unilaterally roll back protections for this special place, the Trump Administration should focus on addressing local input during the robust public comment period required by the monument’s Resource Management Plan process. Local businesses, sportsmen and tribes have made clear that they depend on the expanded monument, and that any attempt to roll it back will hurt Southern Oregon. This assault on Oregon and our public lands cannot stand.”
Sen. Ron Wyden was equally dismayed.
“It is unacceptable that the administration would try to dismiss the voices of the majority of Oregonians who worked in good faith to make themselves heard in favor of protecting and expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument,” said Wyden. “The fate of this Oregon treasure should not be another state secret on top of everything else this administration has tried to keep in the dark. These public lands belong to all Oregonians, and they should remain open to everyone to enjoy and use, not be managed by a memo thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.”
To be fair, shrinking the boundaries would open up the land to harvesting much needed natural resources, but at what cost?
Over the years, a growing number of scientists became concerned that the original monument boundaries left a patchwork of vital habitats and watersheds unprotected. In order to fully protect the biodiversity that makes the monument so special, they advocated for expanding the monument to protect it for future generations. Following an extensive public process, President Barack Obama expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in January.
Is the access to profits worth the devastation of such a biodiverse area? Is it worth fouling pristine watersheds and endangering native species? Do we have the right to make such a vital decision that will affect our posterity?
It's no time to panic, yet, but it is discouraging news. This decision will likely be fought in the courts for some time. Perhaps the equatable solution would be to put this matter to a vote of citizens in Southern Oregon who will be affected by this decision the most.