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 PRESS RELEASE: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Greg Walden wants local input on federal land decisions

Drafts bill in response to leaked memo that maps blueprint for public land changes in Oregon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has introduced legislation to protect public land in Oregon from unilateral federal directives that would redefine how the land could be used – or not used — without any input from local communities and Congress.

“My philosophy has always been that federal land decisions are best made from the local level on up, instead of the other way around where bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. dictate to local communities how land should be used,” Walden said. “When you wall off land from the public, you’re bound to impact the local economy, recreation, tourism, and job creation.”

A leaked memo from the U.S. Department of the Interior in February identified a large swath of land in southeast Oregon’s Owyhee Desert for potential inclusion in the national monuments system. Under the 100-year-old Antiquities Act, the President has the sole power to designate new national monuments without any input from Congress or local communities, which can jeopardize private property rights, economic development and job creation.

Walden’s bill, H.R. 5135, would require congressional approval before any lands in Oregon could be set aside as a national monument by the President — just like congressional approval is required for designation of federal wilderness, national parks, or federal forest lands.

The bill would also require a full NEPA process on proposed national monuments, a process that otherwise is mandated before any actions are taken on federal land.
The original intent of the Antiquities Act was to protect land for historic and/or archaeological purposes — lands that contain important historic landmarks, prehistoric structures, or other objects of scientific significance.

The leaked memo details plans to unilaterally lock up 700,000 acres of the Owyhee Desert in Oregon and Nevada.

“Here in Oregon, we have a rich history of getting local stakeholders together to create new designations for federal land — I was deeply involved in leading the bipartisan negotiations to create the wilderness and special management area on Steens Mountian. We developed the Steens legislation on a local foundation, from the land owners, ranchers, birdwatchers and recreationists on up,” Walden said.

“It’s not rocket science: Get local groups together, figure out common goals, and work out compromises where opinions differ,” Walden said. “How can bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. know without local input or a NEPA process what the best management strategy is for land in Oregon? There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this sort of thing. This is the wrong way.”

Rep. Walden has also joined 14 colleagues on a resolution of inquiry (H. Res. 124) asking the Department of Interior to disclose more information about its plans for creating new national monuments.

This wouldn’t be the first time that a national monument has been declared in Oregon without much transparency or local input.

With almost no discussion with local communities and elected representatives, President Clinton established by presidential proclamation the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Jackson County on June 9, 2000, which covers over 53,000 acres in southeast Oregon.

Jackson County Commissioner CW Smith remembers well how that process felt, and hopes it never happens again to any community in Oregon.

“The Clinton administration declared the Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument with little to no involvement from local elected officials, and significant impacts were felt locally by ranchers, land owners, and recreationalists,” Smith said. “I am encouraged that Rep. Walden is standing up for us and others communities so this won't happen again. That was a case where the federal government ceased being a good neighbor and partner, and became our adversary.”

Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.

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