Oregonians are still waiting to hear the fate Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument after President Trump announced Monday that he will shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Southern Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou is on the short-list of national monuments being targeted by the Trump administration. The list also includes Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured Cascade-Siskiyou this summer as part of a far-reaching review of recently designated monuments across the country.
The White House announcement Monday to shrink the two Utah preserves gives a possible preview of what’s to come for Oregon.
“It’s just unprecedented,” said Dave Willis with the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council. “We’re talking about two million acres that this president is unprotecting.”
Any changes to Cascade-Siskiyou would involve far less land. President Barack Obama nearly doubled its size earlier this year to about 113,000 acres. Obama said the move would better protect the rich biodiversity of the region.
Willis said the Wilderness Council is prepared to take legal action to protect Cascade-Siskiyou “if and when” the White House acts. Environmental groups have already filed a lawsuit challenging the monument reductions in Utah.
Trump characterized the changes to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante as “restoring the rights of this land” to citizens. He said past presidents have abused powers granted under the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments that are much larger than necessary.
“These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home,” he said.
Grand Staircase-Escalante and Cascade-Siskiyou national monuments were both established by President Bill Clinton. Gold Butte and Bears Ears were designated by Obama.
In Oregon, timber, ranching and off-road vehicle advocates have been encouraged by the current administration’s criticism of national monuments.
The Association of O&C Counties — a group representing Oregon counties that receive logging income from BLM timberlands formerly owned by the Oregon and California Railroad — has a lawsuit pending that challenges the Obama Administration’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
A judge had put that case on hold until Dec. 1 to give time for the Trump administration to act.
AOCC executive director Rocky McVay said that stay has now been extended through mid-January. McVay is waiting to hear word from the White House on the fate of Cascade-Siskiyou.
“At least if it was addressed – we’d know what direction we were going to go,” he said, “if we were going to continue the complaint or it would be settled.”