Obama pens additional lame-duck monuments
—Expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument draws criticism
Now former President Barack Obama signed five more lame-duck national monument designations into existence in the very last days of his presidency, bringing his total actions under the Antiquities Act to an all-time record for any president. His Jan. 12 expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou and the California Coastal national monuments, along with three smaller designations, bring his total actions to 34.
Altogether, he has put more than 550 million acres of land and water under monument status.
The Cascade-Siskiyou monument expansion, the most controversial of the president’s Jan. 12 actions, enlarges the 65,000-acre Clinton-era monument of southern Oregon by 48,000 acres. It is located at the convergence of the Cascade, Siskiyou and Klamath mountain ranges, a historic ranching and logging area. The bulk of the newly expanded monument is in Jackson and Klamath counties of Oregon, with some 5,000 acres falling within Siskiyou County, California.
“Cascade-Siskiyou was the first monument designated solely for the preservation of its biodiversity,” said a Department of Interior (DOI) press release. “The monument is an ecological wonder, home to an incredible variety of rare and endemic plant and animal species, and representing a rich mosaic of forests, grasslands, shrub lands, and wet meadows ...”
Not everyone is as enthusiastic. “The [expansion] means a loss of grazing lands, timber production, jobs and an injured economy as the bleak future of Jackson County [the county most affected],” said Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) in a press release.
The California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) also issued a statement, saying it, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Public Lands Council have called on the new Trump administration and the 115th Congress to repeal national monument designations not endorsed by the impacted local communities and stakeholders.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion did not receive such an endorsement. With the exception of Oregon and California U.S. senators—Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—elected officials of the affected area have blasted the expansion. All three directly affected counties have come out swinging, as have the U.S. representatives of the area.
WLJ spoke with Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris. She said an association—the Association of O&C Counties (AOCC)—would be looking at options for litigation. “O&C Counties” are counties which have Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands. These lands were expressly slated by Congress for logging, with timber receipts to go toward roads and schools in local counties. The recent monument expansion encompasses tens of thousands of acres of such land.
According to AOCC, the president lacks authority under the Antiquities Act to include O&C lands in a national monument. This position is shared by the U.S. representatives of the affected area, according to a Nov. 1, 2016 letter they penned to then-DOI Secretary Sally Jewell.
Siskiyou County, just over the border in California, also penned a letter to Jewell noting that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already proposed road closures in the monument. The county claimed the closures will “extremely inhibit access to grazing allotments” and prohibit forest management and restoration. The end result, the supervisors argued, will be
“catastrophic wildfires with no way to access them.”
Ray Haupt, a Siskiyou County supervisor, told WLJ that the county would be keeping close track of the possible litigation efforts going forward.
Grazing and private property
In its response to the expansion, OCA put special attention on grazing, stating: “When a monument designation occurs, the government tells us that current grazing practices will continue to be allowed. The reality… is that... eventually, these grazing permits will be ended.”
A fact sheet issued by DOI states the Cascade-Siskiyou proclamation requires a “study of the impacts of grazing on the ecosystem.” If grazing is found “incompatible with protecting the objects of biological interest,” the grazing allotments will be retired. If grazing permits are relinquished by existing holders, they will not be reallocated for grazing “unless that reallocation will advance the purposes of the monument.”
Private inholdings within a monument designation are another issue with both the recent expansion and monument designations in general. Those inholdings are not officially part of the monument, although “If the federal government subsequently acquires any lands or interests in lands not owned or controlled by the federal government within the boundaries,” the proclamation states, “… such lands and interests in lands shall be reserved as a part of the monument…” Unable to find an accurate map of the newly-expanded monument, WLJ contacted the BLM and was informed that the state BLM office is also working to find a detailed map. The total acreage of private inholdings was unknown at press time.
Zinke weighs in
At a Jan. 17 Senate confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary nominee, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), the room buzzed with questions regarding the Antiquities Act. Senators’ questions were mostly focus on what the new Trump presidency will do regarding the Obamadesignated monuments.
“There’s no doubt the president has the authority to amend a monument,” said Zinke, although he acknowledged that “legally, it’s untested” to completely nullify one.
“I think the state should have a say,” he said in response to the first monument-related question, brought by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) who called his state’s two new monuments “incredibly popular.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) later asked Zinke, “Do you view local support as a necessary precondition… to the creation of a national monument?” Utah is home to one of Obama’s most recent and controversial designations, the 1.35 million-acre Bear Ears National Monument.
“I view it’s absolutely critical to have state and local support on the monument they participate in,” said Zinke. “…Everyone should be on the same page, or at least about the same page.”
He promised Lee that, if confirmed, he would go to Utah, talk to the governor and the citizens affected by the Bear Ears, and “come back and make a recommendation to the president.”
He also made a commitment to talk to the delegation of every state that has a monument. — Theodora Johnson, WLJ Correspondent