Over 300 people filled the Rogue River Room in the Stevenson Union Friday Oct. 14 to voice their opinions on the proposed expansion to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The expansion was proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden in order to better preserve the biodiversity and ecosystems in the area.
“This region has one of the only east-west mountain ranges in the United States, converging with the Cascades going north-south,” Raider Alternative Break Coordinator Megan Davey said. “So it’s a really special place for biodiversity.”
As it stands now, the monument covers an area of approximately 86,774 acres. The new proposal would essentially double the current size of the monument, expanding it by more than 66,500 acres.
The 90,328 acres included in the proposal consists of 56,245 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. The proposed expansion will include 34,095 acres of private land, which will remain private if the proposal continues.
However, many county residents are concerned with the negative effects of the expansion on land use regulations.
“If this proposal moves forward the economic impact could be devastating to Klamath county and other O&C counties specifically,” warned Klamath county Commissioner Tom Mallams.
Ron Ruby, a member of the Southern Oregon Resource Alliance, said if the expansion were to happen farmers and ranchers could “no longer function properly and make a living for themselves.” He continued “do you think they don’t care about the lands? They sure do.”
Local governments represented at the meeting voiced their frustration for the proposal. “Jackson county was never contacted, consulted or approached for its opinion” recalled Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts.
Advocates of the proposal are pushing for a proclamation from President Obama to increase the size of the monument before he leaves office. The 16-year-old monument was first established by President Bill Clinton near the end of his term as a part of the Antiquities Act.
Many at the meeting claimed that areas proposed for the expansion are technically Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands (O&C lands), and are not eligible for expansion under The Antiquities Act.