Monuments in danger.
Byline: The Register-Guard
News that the Cascade- Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon is one of four being targeted for reduction by the Trump administration is bad news not just for Oregonians, but for Americans beyond the state's borders.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to shrink the monument, which protects about 113,000 acres, in order to "reduce impacts on private lands" and allow for more logging, according to a memo (bit.ly/2f7kiW8) from Zinke to the White House that was leaked to the media.
National monuments are national monuments for a reason: They protect lands known for their natural beauty; biodiversity, including rare and/or threatened animal and plant species; and historical artifacts such as rock art.
Cascade-Siskiyou was the first area in the country to be designated a national monument in order to protect biodiversity. It encompassed 65,000 acres when designated as a national monument in 2000, but has been expanded over time.
By proposing major reductions in national monuments across the country, Zinke is prioritizing the few over the many. National monument status is intended to protect and preserve special places that have value for all Americans. Removing existing protections for these lands for the financial profit of the few, such as miners and logging companies, is shortsighted.
Zinke conceded in his memo to the president that public comments the Interior Department has received on its proposals "were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments."
He then dismissed this input, saying it was the result of a "well- orchestrated national campaign organized by multiple organizations."
Zinke needs to re-read his previous statement about overwhelming support before discarding this so lightly.
Those in favor of reducing the protected area are generally in industries such as grazing, timber, mining, hunting and fishing, and motorized recreation, Zinke said. In other words, mostly industries that would have serious, in some cases potentially irreversible, impact on the lands currently being protected.
The monument grew to its current size by acquisition of privately held land within its borders, Zinke notes. Does he now propose removing protections from land that was acquired with taxpayer dollars for the express purpose of protecting it?
Similarly, grazing in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was previously reduced after a study found it incompatible with the monument's goal of protecting biodiversity. Grazing, the study found, threatened riparian areas. Yet Zinke is now proposing increased grazing within the monument's boundaries.
Reducing areas protected as national monuments, including Cascade- Siskiyou, would offer financial benefits for a few companies and individuals. But this would come at a heavy price for the many, in lost protections for areas that receive protection now for their cultural, visual, geological, recreational, historical, paleontological and ecological value.