- Associated Press - Friday, July 14, 2017

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon comes under federal scrutiny this weekend as U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke visits it as part of his study on whether 27 national monuments should be abolished or resized.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will be meeting with Zinke, trying to persuade him to leave it alone, and will also tour the monument, which former President Barack Obama expanded in the final days in office by 48,000 acres.

Since June 12, Zinke has recommended that the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be downsized, and that no changes be made to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and the Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington. President Donald Trump, when he ordered the review in April, called the designation of the 27 monuments by three former presidents “a massive federal land grab.”

Brown and Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have urged the Trump Administration to protect the full Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which covers mountains and forests in southern Oregon and a sliver of Northern California, for future generations. Brown’s press secretary, Bryan Hockaday, said Brown will meet privately with Zinke. She will also tour part of the monument on horseback with aides, Hockaday said.

“The future of Oregon’s federal public lands and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument gives me great concern, as I know it does for many Oregonians,” Brown said Friday in a statement to The Associated Press. “Oregonians have a long tradition of environmental stewardship and deep appreciation for our public lands, and I will make sure the voices of Oregonians are heard by Secretary Zinke and the federal administration.”

Among opponents to the monument’s expansion was the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

“When a monument designation occurs, the government tells us that current grazing practices will continue to be allowed,” the group said after Obama’s action. “The Reality: What happens is that when there is a transfer in ownership or management, those agreements don’t have to be honored. Eventually, these grazing permits will be ended. If the roads are not immediately cut off, they eventually become unusable due to limited infrastructure improvements and loss of basic maintenance.”

Among monument supporters were the mayors and city councils of Ashland and Talent, the two closest towns. They cited its “economic and ecological benefits.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum wrote Zinke this week, threatening legal action if Trump tries to shrink or eliminate the monument

“Congress remains free to revoke or alter monument designations, as it has before, but the President lacks such authority,” Rosenblum maintained in the July 10 letter. She wrote that she expects that as Zinke sees the “vibrant landscape,” he, and Trump, will want to preserve it for future generations.

Rosenblum wrote that “the plain language” of the Antiquities Act of 1906 only gives presidents the power to declare monuments, not to reduce or eliminate them.

Zinke’s office said he will review the monument on Saturday, and will meet with the media at 3:30 p.m. that day at a resort in Ashland.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is situated where the Klamath, Siskiyou, and Cascade mountain ranges converge, creating a unique mixing of diverse habitats that are home to species that co-exist there but would normally live in separate ecoregions. Created by President Bill Clinton in 2000, it is the first monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity. Species that live there include pygmy nuthatches, kangaroo rats, rough-skinned newts and northern spotted owls, according to a monument pamphlet.

Two timber companies have challenged the legality of the expansion, saying it reduces the supply of timber sold and jeopardizes their log supply. A federal judge has given the Trump administration more time to review federal monument designations before it responds to a lawsuit.


Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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