WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, today decried the release of the Trump administration Interior Department’s report that recommended stripping protections from and shrinking the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon.
Despite months of requests from Oregon’s Senators, Governor and local community, the report still gives no information about the specifics of the administration’s plan to alter the boundaries or amend the management proclamation of the monument.
“This move is a monumental mistake,” said Merkley. “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. This national treasure belongs to the American people and it should be preserved so that all Americans can enjoy it now and for generations to come.”
“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,” Wyden said. “This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure. These public lands belong to all Oregonians and all Americans, not to corporations or Trump’s department heads. The fight will continue to end this spiteful campaign to stop American families from having access to the lands they know and love.”
“Any decision by the White House to dramatically reduce publicly protected lands to appease corporate interests will have lasting, generational implications,” Governor Kate Brown said. “I’m deeply troubled by this move and will fight vigorously to prevent any scale-back of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Oregonians value our public lands and the habitats, species, and rural economies they support, and we urge the federal administration to uphold the expanded protections that guide the successful management of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou lands.”
Located at the intersection of three iconic mountain ranges – the Cascades, the Siskiyou Mountains, and the Klamath Mountains – the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument sits upon a unique land bridge that has fostered one of the most biodiverse spots in America. The initial Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was designated by President Bill Clinton in 2000. 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.
The Trump administration’s process for its unprecedented monument “review” has been secretive and, as the Senators pointed out in a November letter, riddled with factual errors. A leaked version of the draft report claimed that the monument designation had cut off motorized transportation and threatened hunting and fishing rights, despite the fact that hundreds of miles of roads within the monument remain open for motorized use and hunting and fishing continue to be regulated by state wildlife agencies, just as they were before the monument designation. Neither of the Oregon Senators has been briefed by the administration on the proposed changes, and Oregonians have had to learn what is happening during this secretive process through leaked reports to the news media.
In a letter urging Interior Secretary Zinke to cease the unprecedented “review” of Oregon’s monument, the Senators emphasized the robust public process that led to the expansion. The process included four public meetings in Southern Oregon, attended by hundreds of Oregonians. This local feedback helped shape the final boundaries of the monument expansion, with changes made from the initial discussion draft to minimize potential impacts on existing grazing and timber operations. Additionally, a months-long written comment process – in which 4,313 Oregonians weighed in supporting a monument expansion and 1,175 in opposition – allowed detailed feedback to be passed along to the Interior Department and White House.
During the 2017 written comment period leading up to the Trump Administration’s decision, over 242,000 commenters supported the monument expansion. In addition to both Oregon Senators, the monument expansion was supported by the Governor, local tribes, nearby businesses and landowners, and the city councils of the two nearest cities, Talent and Ashland.
For more than a century, monuments have been a core strategy to protect some of America’s most special places. Many of America’s most beloved national parks, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Olympic National Parks, began as national monuments established under the Antiquities Act. In the bipartisan, 111-year history of the Antiquities Act, the creation or expansion of a national monument has never been undone through executive action.