Government transparency fails, as will legal illiteracy–
Today, in the form of 19 fuzzy photos of computer screenshots, the American public saw for the first time Interior Sec. Zinke’s recommendations to President Trump to illegally shrink and allow extractive industry in several national monuments, including Oregon and California’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
The recommendation reads in part “The boundary should be revised…in order to reduce impacts on private lands and remove O&C Lands to allow sustained-yield timber production.” Overlooked by Sec. Zinke is the fact that the monument designation does not disadvantage private lands in any way, and the BLM determined that much of the monument is not suitable for commercial timber harvest.
“In this exercise, Trump and Zinke are fighting the will of the American public to gift-wrap pieces of the Pacific Northwest’s crown jewel of biodiversity for the logging industry,” said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center. “To issue these recommendations after repeatedly invoking Teddy Roosevelt’s sterling conservation legacy, it’s no wonder Sec. Zinke wanted to keep the monument recommendation secret. It’s a shameful attempt to subvert the law, and I’m prepared to stand in defense of the law, and of public lands.”
This recommendation defies the will of the American people—99.2 percent of public comments supported keeping national monuments intact—and ignores the harmful effect shrinking the monument would have on the outdoor recreation economy. Most importantly, President Trump lacks the legal authority to alter national monuments.
Legal scholars agree the Antiquities Act grants the president authority to designate and expand national monuments, but not to eliminate or shrink them. On the same grounds, it is unlikely that a president can change the proclamation of a monument that fails to protect the “objects” safeguarded by the monument designation. Plus, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act affirms only Congress has the authority to reduce the size of national monuments.
The report, once issued, is not self-executing—it is just a recommendation. Presidential or congressional action will be required to “implement” the recommendations, and WELC will challenge any alteration of the monument’s boundaries or management emphasis. WELC is defending the monument expansion from three timber industry lawsuits that are stayed (on pause) until after the review and any subsequent government action.
Originally designated by President Clinton in 2000, President Obama expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in January 2017. It is the first and only national monument specifically established to protect biological diversity. In 2015, 85 scientists concerned about increasing threats to the area signed a letter urging monument expansion to better protect and connect important habitats for the monument’s spectacular variety of plants and animals “whose survival in the region,” according the monument’s original proclamation, “depends upon its continued ecological integrity.” This year, more than 200 scientists signed a letter to Sec. Zinke supporting the expanded monument.
In addition to hosting an exceptional range of flora and fauna, the monument area is an important Pacific Northwest biological connectivity corridor enabling species to move back and forth between the Siskiyou Mountains, globally recognized for their botanical diversity, and the southern Cascade Range.
The mayors, city councils, and chamber of commerce boards of the two closest towns to the monument, Ashland and Talent, unanimously endorsed the monument expansion’s recreation and quality-of-life benefits as strengthening the region’s diversifying economy. Landowners representing more than 14,000 acres of adjacent private land in the expansion area also supported the larger monument, as did the local state legislators in whose districts the original monument was located, the Klamath Tribes, Oregon’s Gov. Brown, and Oregon Sens. Wyden and Merkley.