The timber industry thinks it may able to reverse President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon.
The president’s decision to add 48,000 acres to the 65,000-acre national monument was praised by environmentalists and Oregon’s two senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
But a timber industry trade group argued that Obama misused his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
Travis Joseph, president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, said Friday the expansion improperly included several thousand acres of federal land that Congress has prioritized for logging.
“Can an administration come and change the meaning of a statute through the Antiquities Act?” he asked. “That’s the legal question, and our answer is no.”
The expansion includes at least 7,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management acreage — known as the O&C lands — that the agency sees as “harvestable,” Joseph said.
Supporters of the expansion noted the original Cascade-Siskiyou monument designation also included O&C lands, and that it was never challenged legally.
Michael Campbell, a BLM spokesman in Portland, said he couldn’t comment on the timber industry’s contention. But he said the agency’s initial belief was that harvest contracts already signed in lands covered by the expansion would be honored.
In addition, Republican Congressman Greg Walden said Thursday he will talk with the incoming Trump administration about reversing Obama’s action. But there’s slim precedent for that.
“With this designation, the outgoing administration is locking up more of our public lands through a process that cut out many in the surrounding communities,” Walden said in a statement Thursday. “It appears like it was rigged from the beginning.”
Dave Willis of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council said there is strong public support for protecting an area of key biodiversity, like the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument.
Merkley said Friday he backed the monument expansion because it helped preserve an important outdoor area while being compatible with many existing uses. He said there is still grazing and timber cutting for fire management — as well as hunting, fishing and hiking.