The future of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument remains cloudy despite the details revealed in a recent leaked report from the Trump administration.
The memorandum to President Donald Trump from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke includes recommendations for 10 national monuments, including the Cascade-Siskiyou, which was nearly doubled in size by the Obama administration early this year.
Originally, the monument consisted of 53,000 acres, with private property purchases incrementally adding 13,000 acres over the years. In 2017, the monument expanded onto nearly 48,000 acres of public land.
While Zinke says the monument’s boundary “should be revised” to remove so-called “O&C Lands” that are dedicated to timber production and “to reduce impacts on private lands,” the report doesn’t state exactly how many acres should be cut, or where.
Critics and supporters of the expansion agree it’s unclear what action Trump may take on the recommendations, given the disputes over management of 0&C Lands.
The federal government initially granted those 2.4 million acres to a railroad connecting Oregon and California, but then repossessed the property in 1937 when grant conditions were breached.
The Oregon & California Revested Lands Act required that the property be permanently managed for a “sustained yield” of timber harvest. For this reason, critics of the expansion say O&C Lands can’t be included in the monument, where commercial logging is prohibited.
Zinke’s report notes that roughly 16,600 acres of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument consist of O&C Lands “harvest land base.” However, the timber industry claims 40,000 acres of O&C Lands within the monument’s boundaries should be open to logging.
The American Forest Resource Council, which represents timber companies, alleges a resource management plan that limits harvest to those 16,600 acres violates the O&C Act, said Lawson Fite, the organization’s general counsel.
Though it’s uncertain whether the Trump administration would remove all 40,000 acres from the monument, or just 16,600 acres, AFRC is encouraged the expansion is being scrutinized, he said.
“We think that by including any O&C Lands in the monument, the previous president overstepped his authority under the Antiquities Act and violated the O&C Act,” Fite said.
The Antiquities Act permits U.S. presidents to establish national monuments, but whether later administrations can shrink their boundaries remains a point of contention.
Zinke believes that Trump can make such revisions, citing 18 such changes made in the past, but monument supporters argue that an attempt to decrease the Cascade-Siskiyou’s boundaries would be unlawful.
“It would be a sad waste of the Department of the Interior’s resources and taxpayer money,” said Dave Willis, executive director of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, an environmental group.
Zinke’s report wrongly indicated that motorized travel within the monument is prohibited and that hunting and fishing are disallowed, Willis said.
It’s unclear whether these errors were due to sloppiness or an attempt to spur support for reducing the monument’s size, which is opposed by a wide swath of the public, he said.
“It looked like pretty shoddy work,” Willis said.