Bartholomew D Sullivan , Statesman Journal7:38 p.m. PDT November 1, 2016
WASHINGTON – Three members of the House Natural Resources Committee and Oregon Congressman Greg Walden wrote to President Barack Obama on Tuesday to suggest his naming the proposed Sierra Nevada National Monument and expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument would be “utterly irresponsible” at a time of drought and wildfire.
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop joined California U.S. Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville; Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale and Walden in asking Obama not to name the monuments and instead focus “on removing dead and dying trees, drastically reducing the threat of fire and working vigorously to protect existing water supplies and moving forward on new multi-purpose water storage projects.”
The proposed Sierra Nevada National Monument would protect more than 500,000 acres from the southern boundary of Yosemite National Park to the San Joaquin River Gorge, including lands inhabited by giant sequoias.
The Oakland, Calif.-based Trust for Conservation Innovation supports the monument, saying it would spur economic growth for some small towns while preventing logging and mining.
“Decades of commercial logging and clear-cutting in these extraordinarily bio-diverse and beautiful areas created vulnerable forests, and more of the same treatment won’t save them from drought or wildfire.” the trust’s monument project director Deanna Lynn Wulff said by email Tuesday. “A National Monument designation is the most responsible and forward-looking thing to do. It will be a great legacy and a win for the economy and the environment.”
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, established in 2000, already protects 86,744 acres in southern Oregon’s Cascade and Siskiyou mountains.
Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have proposed expanding the existing monument by 65,000 acres. The proposed expansion has drawn opposition in a region where federal land use issues led to the armed standoff and eventual acquittal last week of the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and where there is an ongoing fight to prevent the Owyhee Canyonlands being made a national preserve.
The members of Congress pointed to opposition to the Sierra Nevada monument by water districts serving a million acres of irrigated agriculture. They said it would restrict land use while interfering with forest and fire management activities in the Sierras.
The Oregon expansion includes land “at high risk of catastrophic wildfire” and includes Oregon and California Railroad lands where federal law allows “permanent forest production” as a source of local county revenue, the congressmen noted. The Solicitor General of the Interior Department has said the president doesn’t have the authority under the Antiquities Act to declare a monument on those acres, they pointed out.