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Governor questions grazing on national monument


Gov. Ted Kulongoski is urging the federal government to stop trying to maintain cattle grazing on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, when it was created to protect native species.

A letter from the governor's office to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management criticizes the latest version of the management plan the agency is drawing up, arguing that it is trying to get around the language that established the monument and that calls for eliminating livestock grazing if it is shown to harm the native plants and animals.

"The Monument Proclamation makes it very clear that protection of biological diversity is the primary purpose for creating the Monument," Mike Carrier, natural resources policy director for Kulongoski, wrote in the April 13 letter to Elaine Marquis-Brong, state director of BLM in Oregon.

"Any secondary use, including pre-existing uses, must show compatibility with the primary purpose. In the matter of grazing, the BLM will have difficulty meeting this stated purpose even with its planned approach."

The letter urged BLM to hold off making any decisions until it completes a study of grazing impacts on rare plants and the wildlife that the monument was created to protect before moving forward on the plan. The plan is expected to gain final approval sometime this fall.

"We'll take the comments seriously," said Jerry Magee, environmental protection specialist for BLM's state office in Portland.

The governor's office also questioned the sense of continuing with a grazing study that has cost $1 million to date, when there is strong support among ranchers in the area and local and statewide stockmen's groups for a federal buyout to end grazing.

"It is my opinion that the BLM plan isn't really consistent with the spirit of the proclamation," said Lance Clark, a natural resources policy adviser to the governor. "Just from a lay reading of the proclamation it sounds like it is very much an either-or —find out if the grazing is compatible with protecting the biological diversity of the monument, and if it is not, end it."

Howard Hunter, assistant manager of the monument for BLM, said the agency was "doing what we think is appropriate" from their reading of the proclamation creating the monument. That includes following "existing laws and regulations," to perform a full environmental impact statement to examine all sides of the issues.

"The proclamation said to do a study," said Hunter. "We determined the proclamation meant not just looking at the existing literature, but a site-specific study. So we designed a study." And as the study progressed, interested parties kept asking for it to address more issues, he said.

The monument was created in 2000 by President Clinton from 53,000 acres of BLM lands in southwestern Oregon near Ashland to protect the broad mix of plants and animals where the Cascade Range intersects with the Siskiyou Mountains.

While cattle grazing was allowed to continue, BLM was instructed to conduct a study to see whether grazing was harming the biological resources the monument was created to protect.

The dozen ranchers who graze on the monument pay a total of less than $5,000 a month to graze as many as 2,714 cows with their calves.

Seeing that grazing has no future on the monument, all but one of the ranchers has voiced support for a federal buyout, said Andy Kerr, an environmental consultant involved in negotiations.

No agreement has been reached yet in talks on how much ranchers would want to be paid to quit grazing on the monument and neighboring lands. Once an agreement is reached, legislation would be sought in Congress.

The letter also suggested that BLM was treating the monument like any other lands where grazing takes place, rather than a place where the primary purpose is the protection of native species.

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