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Proposed National Monuments

by Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong, 7/30/10, followed by article 5/21/10

NATIONAL MONUMENTS: Earlier this year, Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah received a few pages of a leaked internal paper from the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) listing fourteen sites encompassing more than 13 million acres for nomination as National Monuments. Among the sites was the expansion of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument into California essentially north of the Klamath River and mostly east of I-5. Although the DOI has been uncooperative in providing Congress with more than 2,000 additional pages of details surrounding their plan, it appears that the proposal is a part of DOI Secretary Ken Salazar’s “Treasured Landscapes” initiative and part of President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative.

There is plenty of indication that the Administration has been working behind closed doors with environmental groups to establish the groundwork for setting aside additional areas of the West as protected from human use and impact. There was even an article in Sunset magazine timed to highlight the potential monument designations. It is significant that public meetings to gather input for the America’s Great Outdoors initiative have only been held in major urban centers and invitations have been directed largely to an environmental constituency. You can learn more about these initiatives on my website here: http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/monument.htm  

Another proposal being promoted is the designation of the 200,000 acre Siskiyou Crest National Monument. This is the long time brain-child of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, a group that frequently appeals Forest Service projects. The area for this proposal covers most of the land north of the Klamath River and west of I-5. The Siskiyou Crest nomination was mentioned in the America’s Great Outdoors process and is apparently  endorsed by the North Siskiyou Democrats and the Northern California's Redwood Group of the Sierra Club.

One of the most alarming things about National Monuments is that they can simply be declared or expanded by the President at his discretion at any time without a public National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, Congressional agreement or any local public hearing whatsoever. The Antiquities Act of 1906, originally enacted to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” has been abused since the Clinton era to set-aside vast landscapes from use – such as Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument established to eliminate access to deposits of oil shale.

Because of the very real possibility that there might never be a local opportunity to weigh in on these nominations before they are declared, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors passed two resolutions opposing the designations and requesting government to government coordination on any federal management proposals. In May, the Board also held a large public hearing to discuss the lands in question and the potential impact of National Monument status on their management. There was virtually universal opposition to these monument designations expressed by the public at this all-day hearing.

The exterior boundaries of the proposed Monuments include large areas of private lands. (There are 75,454 acres of private lands in the proposed Siskiyou Crest Monument.) Most of the federal lands included within the boundaries are already managed under one or more of 13 types of special status. Important ecological and other features are already more than adequately protected. Residents are concerned about their continued ability to cut fire wood, harvest mushrooms, access lands to hunt and recreate, work their mining claims on federal land. They are also alarmed at what will happen to their private property.

The Bureau of Land Management testified that when the original Oregon Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was declared, it excluded mineral and geothermal development, commercial timber harvest and all off-road mechanized vehicles on federal lands. Many roads were closed, limiting access to foot traffic from vehicle parking lots. Pre-existing grazing allotments were discontinued or bought out. Conditions on road use have become so onerous that all but one timber company have vacated the area. The lack of wildfire suppression policies have caused escaped fires onto private lands. Public trespass onto private lands has also been an issue.       

According to testimony given at the Monument hearing, many private lands within the monument were targeted for acquisition through “willing sellers.” In some cases, locked gates to roads had been installed by the federal government. Unless they had a deeded easement to access federal roads, private property owners had to acquire a permit to access their property. The permit included conditions limiting their property use to existing uses and “freezing” the condition of the road. Consequently, these access roads have deteriorated substantially.

I continue to strongly oppose any designation of National Monuments in my district. Neither of the current proposals would be good for the people of Siskiyou County.


NATIONAL MONUMENTS: Recently, the Board of Supervisors held a workshop on proposals for National Monuments with boundaries that will encompass almost all of the land north of the Klamath River in Siskiyou County. One proposal would extend Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (NM) into California and the other would create a new Siskiyou Crest NM. The extension was included in the original proposal for the Cascade-Siskiyou, almost a decade ago, but at that time was removed when Siskiyou County protested. Representatives from Congressmen Herger and Walden’s offices, Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith and Josephine County Commissioner Sandy Cassanelli spoke at the workshop. http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/

The Siskiyou Crest proposal is the long time brain-child of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, a group that frequently appeals Forest Service projects. It came to light through some documents leaked to a Congressman, that the Dept. of Interior was discussing having the President declare these, and several other large landscapes as National Monuments using the Antiquities Act.    

According to Nancy Hauge of the Redding Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Ken Harris, Happy Camp District Ranger, no local agency efforts have been requested to gather data or assess the potential of these proposals. KNF Supervisor Patty Grantham discussed how every acre of KNF land within that boundary has already been assessed for various values. These have already been protected through 13 different special management areas in the 1995 Forest Plan, including a Wilderness designation. The area is currently managed for multiple use, including hunting, wood cutting, timber harvest, mining, grazing and a ski area. This use is an integral part of Klamath River and Siskiyou County life style and economy.

Howard Hunter, Assistant Manager of the Cascade-Siskiyou NM, spoke about the history and management of that NM. In 1999, Secretary Bruce Babbitt flew into town for a field trip, followed by a couple of meetings and then President Clinton’s proclamation. It has taken them eight years to complete their management plan. NM status has withdrawn the area from mineral development, geothermal, commercial timber, all off-road mechanized vehicles. A portion of the NM has been set aside as Wilderness. The BLM has also closed many roads, limiting recreation to access by foot from various parking lots. (This has made it difficult for the very young, the elderly and disabled, as well as many hunters to use the area.) Grazing allotments have been either: (1) discontinued if determined to be incompatible with the protection of biological interests; or (2) the ranchers have been ‘softened up’ by impractical requirements to frequently move cattle, followed up with an offer of buy-out from a third party arrangement.

Private lands within the NM are acquired into federal ownership through “willing sellers.” These seem to be created by making life difficult for the owners. A land trust then follows to purchase the land and then sell it to the federal government at a nice profit. The money fund these purchases often comes from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.  http://www.nps.gov/lwcf/

One of the difficulties encountered by private property “in-holders” is access. Unless a party has a deeded easement to access roads, they must acquire a permit to use federal roads. That permit will freeze the use and condition of the road to that of the time of the permit. For instance, if you owned a piece of land, you could never build a house or hunt club on it, because that would be a new use of the land and road. Often these roads are gated by the BLM. I heard one in-holder state at another meeting that the BLM frequently changed locks to the gate, requiring her to drive to their office to get a new key. Another in-holder testified that roads were no longer maintained by the BLM and that he was told that he would have to maintain them himself. The cost was prohibitive and the road was deteriorating rapidly. The same in-holder spoke about the fire danger posed by the lack of fire suppression policies in the new Wilderness Area.

Other in-holders spoke about trespass by the public on their property. Although commercial harvest of trees on private land within the NM may still be possible, all but one timber company has left. Terry Salvestro of Fruit Growers spoke about the escape of two controlled burns onto their land. Difficulties with the roads have required them to add another hour to their log haul time and they anticipate future problems with roads on which they do not already have a cooperative road management agreement with the federal government. 

There were many presentations by a local group quantifying the potential impact of the proposals. There are currently more than 226 mining claims within proposed Siskiyou Crest boundaries and chromium deposits significant to national defense. On both the NM proposals, there are 14 grazing allotments (11 active) supporting 1200-1250 cow/calf pairs on about 208,251 acres. These represent 12 permitees tied to 32 families dependent on ranch income. Last year in the Happy Camp Ranger District, 787 commercial and residential firewood permits were issued – an important local resource for heating. 380 Christmas tree permits were issued and 83 commercial mushroom permits. It was calculated that the Siskiyou Crest National Monument boundaries would include 75,454 acres of private lands (599 private parcels, 260 of these improved,) with an estimated assessed value of $30,889,630.  The workshop was taped and will be posted online at roguevalleynetwork.com (click the “politics” button.)



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