Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is calling for one of the Northwest’s national monuments to be reduced in size.
Zinke released a months-old report Tuesday making recommendations to President Trump on the fate of national monuments that previous presidents had established or expanded. Among the recommendations: that the president roll back at least part of the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National monument.
At the beginning of the year, President Obama nearly doubled the size of the Cascade-Siskiyou monument, adding about 48,000 acres. It now covers 113,000 acres, stretching from southern Oregon into northern California.
Zinke made no specific recommendations about shifting boundaries for Cascade-Siskiyou. But the report said the boundaries need to be revised in part to address concerns about reduced access for commercial timber production and motorized vehicles.
Obama’s expansion included about 40,000 acres of so-called “O&C Lands” – named for the defunct Oregon & California Railroad which held forest lands that fell into public ownership early in the 20th century. Several Oregon counties have sued the federal government, saying the expansion violates their legal right to continue collecting revenues through the logging of those O&C lands.
The head of a timber industry lobbying group praised the recommendation, saying it will help restore trust in federal land management.
"We thank Secretary Zinke and Interior staff for taking a closer look at this expansion and we urge President Trump to take action to follow the law," said Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resource Council in a prepared statement.
Zinke told reporters on a conference call that he would encourage his boss to change the boundaries to resolve legal concerns over the O&C lands inside the Cascade-Siskiyou monument.
“I’m fairly confident that the president will. And I will be in the office multiple times going through the specifics of it,” Zinke said.
Zinke also said the enlarged protected area now encompasses 52,485 acres of private land; he wants Trump to revise the Cascade-Siskiyous protected area to “address impacts on private lands.”
Contrary to this stated goal, many of the most vocal local opponents of Zinke's plan for reducing the size of the monument own land within the boundaries.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden disputed the notion that Zinke was working to bring management of the Cascade Siskiyou in line with the values of his constituents.
“Secretary Zinke falsely claims the Interior Department is listening to the voices of Oregonians when it comes to the agency’s damaging, vague recommendation to close off public access to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument,” Wyden said. “This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure.”
Conservationists have expressed opposition to any reduction to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and threatened to legally challenge changes ordered by Trump.
The report’s release comes a day after Trump reduced the amount of land protected within two national monuments in Utah: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.