A timber industry lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument will be heard by a federal judge in Medford on Tuesday.
The case, Murphy Company v. Trump, argues the former president did not have the authority to enlarge the monument because the expansion included Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, also known as the O&C Lands, that had already been designated for timber production.
Murphy Company did not respond to OPB requests for an interview.
The O&C Lands comprise more than 2 million acres of forest in western Oregon. The land was set aside by Congress in 1937 to provide income for local communities.
Using the executive authority granted in the 1907 Antiquities Act, President Barack Obama expanded southern Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument during his final days in office in 2017. He added 48,000 acres — about 40,000 of which were O&C Lands. Although more than half of that 40,000 acres was already out of the harvest base under a previous federal management plan, according to the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council.
The council is one of several environmental groups intervening in the case. They say it doesn’t come into conflict with the power of the president.
“In fact, it’s not aimed at the executive at all. This lawsuit seeks to create a conflict where none actually exists,” said Kristen Boyles, a lawyer with Earthjustice. “This case presents arguments that are a means to an end. And the end being that Murphy timber does not want this expansion to stay in place.”
The case has been pending for more than two years, but most of the delays came at the request of the plaintiffs while the Trump administration considered adjusting its boundaries. Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument near Ashland was on the short list of monuments targeted for review by the Trump administration.
“The president’s ultimate decision could moot the very issue plaintiffs challenge in this action,” Murphy Company argued in a February 2018 request to delay the case further.
Two other monuments — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah — were shrunk, but the Trump administration has never announced any action for Cascade-Siskiyou.
Two similar lawsuits are pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C. — one from Portland-based American Forest Resource Council and the other from the Association of O&C Counties.
The Bureau of Land Management is a defendant in the Murphy Company case. A spokesperson for the office says the BLM does not comment on pending litigation.