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Monument expansion riles Klamath commission

The expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, announced by President Barack Obama Thursday, will also encompass all of Hyatt Lake.

Herald and News by Gerry O'Brien 1/14/17

Not everyone is happy that the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument lands have been expanded by some 47,000 acres, which includes 12,000 acres in Klamath County. Some may even try to reverse the order.

President Barack Obama created the expansion by executive order Thursday. It is less than the 65,000 acres sought by supporters and drafted by Oregon’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

Republican Congressman Greg Walden, saw the order differently.

“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. It appears like it was rigged from the beginning. I’ve heard from landowners and county commissioners who were not even consulted in the crafting of the proposal,” Walden said in a press release.

“The Clinton Administration similarly rushed to declare the original Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument at the last minute without the necessary work up front. As a result, I had to come back and legislate a solution around Soda Mountain.

“It is unfortunate that the current administration has followed the same failed pattern. I will work with the Trump Administration to do what we can to roll back this midnight expansion,” Walden said.

O&C Act lands

Klamath County Commissioners said in a Friday press release: The Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) represents 17 counties including Klamath County that have a statutory interest in 2.1 million acres managed pursuant to the O&C Act of 1937.

“The expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument will encompass tens of thousands of acres, almost all of which are O&C lands. AOCC was opposed to expansion of the Monument, but the Association argues our concerns were ignored,” the county’s release said.

The county association believes that the Antiquities Act that gives Obama power to issue such a decree, excludes O&C, timberlands. The decree will likely be fought in court or in Congress.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is at the convergence of the Cascade, Siskiyou and Klamath mountain ranges in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

This meeting point between different regions has fostered one of the most biodiverse regions in the country, with unique plant and animal species that can be found nowhere else, according to supporters.

Merkley, Wyden applauded the expansion.

“The Cascade-Siskiyou area, where three mountain ranges converge creating a unique and spectacular landscape seen nowhere else in the world, merits the recognition and expanded protection that President Obama gave it,” Merkley said in a release.

“I deeply appreciate the time and energy of the many Oregonians who came to public meetings and submitted comments on this proposal. Their thoughtful input helped to inform the President’s final decision on both the expansion and its boundaries, and I will continue to press to ensure that their voices are heard as a management plan for the new monument area is formed.”

County meetings

It’s the public meetings that rubbed some officials wrong. Many in Klamath said they were not notified of the meetings and only were able to attend at the last minute. As a result, Jackson and Klamath counties held their own public meetings, where opposition was most vocal.

“The Monument expansion would reduce the already-too-small harvest land base in the BLM’s Medford District and cause even more drastic reductions in the Klamath Falls Resource Area of the Lakeview District,” the commission release said. “The harvest land base in the Klamath Resource Area would be reduced by more than 30 percent and could force the closure of that BLM office.”

Loss of timber supply would be a major blow to local economies for communities in Klamath and Jackson counties, and perhaps as far away as Douglas County, which has mills that are within hauling distance of harvests that would take place on BLM lands in the Medford District and the Klamath Resource Area, the release said.

“It’s unfortunate that at the last minute President Obama created friction between the O&C counties and the federal government,” Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said Friday. “About 80 percent of Klamath County is O&C lands. We will probably have to litigate over it.”



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