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Zinke recommendation to trim Cascade-Siskiyou questioned

Official cites errors; senators attack move

(Update: Adding Wyden-Merkley news release)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - One of the people who was behind the creation of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendation to President Donald Trump recommending downsizing it has several errors.

A memo from Zinke to the president justifying his recommendation that the boundary of the monument which lies mostly in Oregon and crosses over into California be "revised" says motor vehicles aren't allowed in it.

Dave Willis, the chairman of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, says cars drive on hundreds of miles inside the monument, which surrounds many private holdings. He also wonders why Zinke referred to protecting hunting and fishing rights, saying those activities are already allowed in national monuments.

In addition to Cascade-Siskiyou, Zinke is recommending that three other national monuments in the West be reduced in size - Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and Nevada's Gold Butte.

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News release Monday from Sens. Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today responded to new reports that the Trump Administration will seek to shrink the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and diminish its protections. The Senators pointed out that the monument was expanded through an extensive public process, and that the Trump Administration’s plans to shrink it disrespect the voice of the local community and rest on an unprecedented and legally dubious use of the Antiquities Act.

The latest reports are based on leaked documents from the Trump Administration, as the President and the Interior Secretary have continued to refuse requests to make the recommendations public.

“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.”

“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.”

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.

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.

Despite scientific evidence and local support, media reports and newly leaked documents suggest that Secretary Zinke has recommended shrinking the monument’s boundaries and changing the monument’s management. Neither of Oregon’s senators has been directly briefed or received written 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.


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