WASHINGTON - Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden responded Monday to the Trump Administration’s “review” of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, after media reports that the administration will take unprecedented steps to undermine protections for some of the most biodiverse public land in the United States.
The Trump Administration has still not told the public how the monument will be affected.
“The administration launched a legally dubious attack on American treasures that belong to the people, and now is rejecting the diverse public support — from neighboring property owners, chambers of commerce, tribes, sportsmen — and the extensive public input process that led to expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,” Merkley said.
“Instead, the administration is leaning on a politically driven process to undermine protections for our unique geology, biology, climate, and iconic American landscapes. This is an extraordinary attack on the American tradition of protecting public lands that are open to all.”
“This after-the-fact scheme to gouge away at the Cascade-Siskiyou monument insults the Oregon Way and the many Oregonians who spoke up in favor of protecting this pristine place for generations to come,” Wyden said. “Senator Merkley and I encouraged all Oregonians to engage in a thoughtful process to reach a solution – and the result showed an overwhelming interest in protecting these unique Oregon lands. I will fight this misguided effort to lurch backwards after so much progress and I will keep fighting this administration’s ongoing assaults on our public lands.”
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.
In a letter urging Secretary Zinke to cease the unprecedented “review” of Oregon’s monument, sent in July, 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 allowed detailed feedback to be passed along to the Interior Department and White House. During the written comment period, over 242,000 commenters supported the monument expansion.
Despite scientific evidence and local support, media report that Secretary Zinke has recommended shrinking the monument’s boundaries. Neither of Oregon’s senators have received information from the Trump Administration about the recommendations.
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, the senators said.