‘Breaking News’: Another News Outlet Gets It Wrong on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

By Travis Joseph, AFRC President

In its December 7 editorial titled “Oregon should fight for an untouched Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,” the Salem Statesman Journal editorial board makes several false and misleading claims that deserve clarification.

First, the editorial board wrote that the “federal government is planning to reduce some of the space available” to the public by reducing the size of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. That’s simply not true. No matter what happens to the monument, the federal land will stay in federal ownership and public access will remain.

In fact, limiting public access was one of the reasons so many Oregonians opposed the monument expansion in the first place. The expansion would lead to permanent road closures and road decommissioning making it more difficult for Oregonians – especially those with disabilities that depend on the infrastructure – to access some of their favorite places. The monument also restricts traditional uses of the land, such as grazing and timber, that have helped sustain the local economy for decades. If the monument stands, public access to public lands will decrease, not increase.

The editorial board also claims it has seen “no support from folks who use the land for recreation” to make changes to the monument size. Really? The counties that host the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the elected state legislators that represent Oregonians who live, work, and play in or near the monument strongly and publicly voiced their opposition to the expansion. But, apparently, the voices of the people most impacted by the monument don’t count – or were never heard.

Then, bizarrely, the editorial board argues that even though “the state has plenty of other open space” the monument is important because “once land is lost to development, it’s unlikely it will ever revert to the people again.” No one, on either side of the debate, is proposing that the land in question be developed. Although, it should be pointed out that several supporters of the monument expansion own cabins within the monument boundaries. State taxpayers will be on the hook to protect these structures if and when a wildfire occurs in this fire prone landscape.

What the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion is really all about is whether or not a president – regardless of party – has the authority to override an act of Congress. In 1937, Congress passed a law that requires the Bureau of Land Management to manage all O&C lands for “permanent forest production.” The law has never been repealed, replaced, amended, or changed. The O&C Act is the law of the land.

But, with a swoop of a pen, the Obama Administration circumvented that law and re-designated the same lands for a completely different purpose. To add insult to injury, the monument expansion happened largely behind closed doors with minimal public input. The expansion was exempt from all public review and environmental laws – the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act just to name a few.

It’s disappointing that on such an important issue to the state of Oregon, which will have major legal implications for public land management into the future, the editorial board got the basic facts so wrong. Let’s have a conversation about the appropriate size of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the appropriate role of the Antiquities Act, and how the O&C Act is being implemented. But, if we are going to have an honest conversation, let’s start with the facts.