President Obama on Thursday announced an anticipated expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.
The monument is currently about 65,000 acres in Jackson County, east of Ashland. The expansion adds 48,000 acres to the monument.
The president issued a statement announcing the expansion, saying his administration has tried “to protect the most important public lands for the benefit of future generations.”
“Today’s actions will help ensure that more of our country’s history will be preserved and celebrated,” the statement read, “and that more of our outdoors will be protected for all to experience and enjoy.”
Bill Clinton created the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in June of 2000, when he had six months left in office.
During his 2000 campaign for president, George W. Bush criticized the original monument designation. His running mate, Dick Cheney, said during a visit to Central Point that Bush might try to undo the designations if elected president. Bush never did.
Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and various scientists and environmentalists had previously expressed hope President Obama would double the size of the monument in his final weeks as president.
Merkley lauded the announcement.
“Today is a great day for Southern Oregon,” the senator said in a statement. “The Cascade-Siskiyou area, where three mountain ranges converge creating a unique and spectacular landscape seen nowhere else in the world, merits the recognition and expanded protection that President Obama gave it today.”
Wyden also commented on the expansion, saying, “I am proud to see this unmatched landscape will remain rugged for decades to come.”
Detractors of the expansion have expressed concern that a larger Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument would hurt the region’s economy with limits on logging and grazing.
In a news release, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association said the president’s decision will “have a rippling effect on ranchers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts and beyond.”
“Our western heritage and love for the land is something we greatly value within our association. This is a huge hit for our members, our communities, and our state,” Jerome Rosa, the association’s executive director, said in the release.
Bruce Sargent owns Buckhorn Springs, a piece of private land with cabins and a retreat center up in the mountains. It’s surrounded on all sides by the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.
“[I’m] very excited to have the boundaries expanded,” said Sargent.
Sargent said he likes that he can walk out of his door and in a few minutes be hiking in a protected old growth forest. “I have found a lot of solace or rejuvenation, I could go on and on, by getting out onto land, that I know is preserved, particularly land that humans haven’t had an impact on.”
The monument now includes lands in northern California and in Oregon’s Klamath County. Many ranching and logging families opposed the expansion.
Oregon’s only Republican congressman, Greg Walden, said he would try to put a stop to the expansion.
“The outgoing administration is locking up more of our public lands through a process that cut out many in the surrounding communities. It appears like it was rigged from the beginning,” Walden said in a statement. “I will work with the Trump Administration to do what we can to roll back this midnight expansion.”
The president’s announcement puts a possible monument designation in the Owyhee canyonlands of eastern Oregon even further into doubt.
President Obama has until the day he leaves office, Jan. 20, to take executive actions, such as designating monuments.