Judge says O&C lands in Cascade-Didkiyou
National Monument can be cut
MEDFORD — A federal judge has ruled that almost 40,000 acres
federal land permanently set aside for logging are illegally
managed within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and must
remain in timber production.
In a reversal of other recent case law, Judge Richard Leon of
U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled that
Congress’s intention to allow logging on federal O&C Act lands
trumps President Barack Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to
expand the monument on lands east of Ashland just before he left
office in 2017.
Obama’s proclamation extended the monument to 113,013 acres of
Bureau of Land Management lands where no commercial logging is
But Leon’s ruling states a president’s proclamation does not
override the Congressional mandate that O&C lands be managed for
permanent forest production under a sustained-yield principle
that logging volumes can continue in perpetuity.
The ruling follows a 1940 Department of Interior internal legal
opinion that O&C Lands can’t be given monument status by
The ruling does not strip the lands out of the monument, but
determines they must be treated as originally intended for
“Congress could have expanded the monument, and that would have
changed the O&C Act,” said Travis Joseph, president of the
American Forest Resource Council, which filed the suit. “The
president can’t do it unilaterally without Congress. We think
that’s an important distinction.”
Joseph said the recent monument expansion included about 40,000
acres of O&C Lands.
Leon’s ruling is in direct contrast to a decision in an
identical case settled earlier this year in U.S. District Court
In that case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke ruled that Obama
properly stayed within constitutional principles of the
Antiquities Act and did not exceed his statuary authority in
adding O&C Act lands into the monument.
Clarke’s ruling references past federal court rulings that have
deemed that O&C lands are not set aside exclusively for maximum
timber production and can be set aside as preserves. Clarke’s
ruling was finalized by U.S. District Court Judge Michael
McShane last spring.
every last stick’
Dave Willis, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council chair and longtime
monument-area advocate, said Leon’s ruling leans on a view that
O&C Lands exist only to “cut every last stick” and denies
presidential power to protect sensitive and unique areas from
“The implication of his interpretation of the 1937 O&C Act would
bring us to the Dark Ages all across Western Oregon,” Willis
said. “Old-growth trees will be falling like dominoes and
endangered species would be pushed closer to extinction.
“These are public lands owned by all of us, not just a few
timber companies,” Willis said. “We’re going to continue
fighting for this place.”
Willis said the ruling shows a need to revamp the O&C Act to
21st century realities.
Willis said the ruling will be appealed to the federal D.C.
Court of Appeals.
Leon also ruled that BLM’s Western Oregon Resource Management
plans, called RMPs, fail to meet the mandate of the O&C Act.
Joseph said the District of Columbia is a prudent venue for the
suits because that’s where the O&C Act and the monument
expansion decisions were made.
While the court ruling addresses only the O&C Act lands added by
Obama, it does not address management of the 40,156 acres of
former O&C Act lands within the original monument footprint
created by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
The Clinton expansion was never challenged based on the O&C Act
argument. Joseph said he does not know why it was not challenged
at the time, but that was before the 1937 government opinion on
placing O&C Act lands within monument protections had come to
The original 66,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was
designated by Clinton to protect what he called its “spectacular
biological diversity.” A 2015 scientific study recommended a
larger expansion than Obama signed to ensure that biodiversity
is protected, especially when considering the threats of climate
The monument’s 113,013 acres are within a footprint that covers
about 137,500 acres. Private lands, including more than 2,000
acres of Murphy timberland, inside that footprint remain private
and are not subject to monument rules, which ban commercial
timber harvest but would allow well vetted noncommercial
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