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1/22/2009 Capital Press by Tam Moore  
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Created by presidential proclamation in June 2000, Cascade Siskiyou National Monument is described as "an ecological wonder with biological diversity unmatched in the Cascade Range." Boundaries enclose over 92,000 acres, over 40,000 of those acres in private ownership, and 52,000 acres of federal land under U.S. Bureau of Land Management supervision.

Anchored on the south by the California-Oregon border, the monument includes some lands west of the I-5 freeway at Siskiyou Summit and extends 13 miles east. It extends 13 miles north of the state line and includes private lands which most local residents refer to as "The Greensprings."

Monumental end to grazing near Soda Mountain
Federal legislation sets stage for buyout of ranchers’ permits

EAGLE POINT, Ore. - Bob Miller and Mike Dauenhauer sounded tired as they reported Jan. 17 to the Jackson County Stockmen's Association annual meeting. Both ranchers have a decade wrapped up in watching their public grazing leases come to an end.

"It looks like this issue is coming to a resolution - one way or another," said Miller, the association public lands chairman, as he began his report.

Dauenhauer, the association's outgoing president, said in an interview, "If it had been (just) me, I would have given up three years ago."

Both men are second-generation ranchers running cattle on the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, Ore.

A clause in S22, the omnibus natural resources bill, provides for voluntary surrender of grazing permits within the 8-year-old monument. It passed the U.S. Senate 73-21 on Jan. 15 with no amendments and no debate.

House approval of the lengthy bill is expected.

Thirty years ago, local environmentalists began a campaign to create a wilderness anchored by Soda Mountain, the highest point in what turned out to be the monument.

A June 2000, proclamation by then-President Bill Clinton created the monument, and the 22,000-acre Soda Mountain Wilderness is part of the same 2009 omnibus bill that authorizes shutting down grazing.

Dauenhauer said environmentalists have placed money in escrow "ready to pay if the bill becomes law" and five ranchers have filed with the escrow agent letters surrendering their permits. John Gerritsma, manager of the monument and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Ashland area, said two other leases - both small and near the edge of the monument boundaries - could be considered if owners wish to join the deal.

When the stockmen first asked for a buyout, they sought $300 for each animal unit month authorized by their leases. Last year, the BLM backed out of seeking a federal buyout, leaving the cattlemen with either accepting a lesser amount from the environmentalists or canceling the deal. Parties haven't talked final amounts, but Miller said it is "less than 20 percent of what we hoped for; nobody will be buying new ranches with this. We won't have enough money to stay in business."

The five leases pledged to the deal have 2,761 AUMs total.

The National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, a coalition of environmental groups, took the lead in getting private donations for the buyout.

"It's been a long and interesting journey. ... It has actually been 30 years if you look at the trends" toward passage of legislation, said Miller. His late father came to the Cascade Siskiyou country at age 7. Livestock grazing among the trees began before federal forest management of what was then public domain lands.

Miller said he has utmost respect for the persistent and well-financed environmentalists who championed the monument and wilderness area.

"I'll tell you, you've got to know your adversaries, to get to know the dedication and the firepower these people have. ...I have an admiration for them," he said.

He said on the stockmen's side, "misunderstanding and greed" threatened to derail the process more than once. After fighting the monument concept, only to see it become fact in the closing days of the Clinton administration and be sustained in 2001 by the Bush administration, Miller and others quietly began talks with Andy Kerr, an Ashland resident and for a time leader of the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign.

They got support for a negotiated buyout from state and national cattlemen and Oregon's governor. Draft buyout legislation was first submitted in 2006 but failed to get traction in Congress.

Gerritsma, who became BLM area manager four years ago, signed off on the monument master plan six months ago.

A companion study of grazing impact ordered when the monument was created came out shortly afterward. To no one's surprise, it concluded that livestock grazing influences vegetation.

"You've got to remember," he said in a brief speech to the stockmen, "that 'statistically significant' does not always lead to biological significance. The (presidential) proclamation is to protect the ecology of the monument. We've had to do a lot of digging to figure out what that means."

Retired BLM specialist Charlie Boyer, now an Eagle Point rancher, faulted BLM for not having a plan to restore grazing if the agency later discovers monument ecology changes without cattle.

"I can guarantee you that if cattle are removed, those conditions (at the time the proclamation was issued) won't be there 30 years from now, or even 10 years from now," said Boyer.

Freelance writer Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. E-mail: moore.tam@gmail.com.
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