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Commissioners join opposition to monument expansion

by Stephen Floyd, Herald and News 11/9/16

Comments on expansion due Nov. 20

Those interested in submitting comments on the potential Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion can do so in two ways: submit comments online to www.merkley.senate.gov/contact, or by mail to Sen. Jeff Merkley, 10 S. Bartlett St., Suite 201, Medford, OR 97501.

Klamath County Commissioners have voted to oppose expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument after local residents showed overwhelming resistance to the proposal.

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to take a stance against monument expansion and to draft a letter to federal officials detailing their displeasure with the plan.

“The whole package has just been put together badly,” said Commissioner Jim Bellet.


This comes after commissioners held a town hall meeting Nov.1 during which local residents and officials spoke largely against expansion. During the meeting commissioners said they would take time to review input before declaring their position and did so on Tuesday.

Klamath County lands

The proposal, put forward by Sen. Jeff Merkley, would add 66,500 acres to the 66,000-acre monument, including 19,000 acres in Klamath County. Merkley’s office is accepting public comment on the issue until Nov. 20 after which time his office will forward input to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who will then make a recommendation to President Barack Obama.

Critics of the proposal are concerned Obama will unilaterally approve monument expansion using the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to create national monuments from public lands by proclamation. The Antiquities Act was used by President Bill Clinton to establish the monument in 2000.

Such concerns were echoed Tuesday by commissioners, who said the process thus far has excluded residents and officials who may be opposed to expansion while there is no indication yet Merkley, Jewell or Obama will change course.

“That’s disappointing that the federal government wouldn’t come and want to talk to Klamath County about something going on in Klamath County, especially a monument,” said Bellet.

“I question whether this proposal is legal,” said Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris, who pointed out expansion may conflict with the O&C Lands Act of 1937.

Timber revenue

Klamath is one of a number of Oregon counties challenging the federal government for not fulfilling mandates within the O&C Lands Act, which regulates the harvesting of 2.6 million acres of timber land in Oregon as well as the division of logging revenue between federal and local governments. The Association of O&C Counties, of which Minty Morris is a board member, claims the government is fulfilling roughly one quarter of its harvesting obligations, leading to steep declines in revenue for affected counties.

Of the 19,000 acres of Klamath County Land proposed for monument expansion, the majority are O&C Lands and commissioners argued the loss of harvestable timber would mean an even larger loss in local revenue.

“I think this is another effort that would really dismantle the O&C (Lands) Act,” said Minty Morris.

She added there needs to be further conversations about the management of public lands and, until a consensus is reached, it would be “dangerous” to push through monument expansion.

Commissioner Tom Mallams also said he does not believe use of the Antiquities Act is appropriate for monument expansion, stating the landscape “is no Crater Lake.”

“This is timber land and grazing land,” he said.

Mallams said extra steps are not needed to preserve the natural resources within the proposed area as the agricultural industry has responsibly used the land “for generations.” He also said he would be opposed to any form of expansion, not simply a re-written proposal, and believes it would be government overreach to further restrict access to natural resources.

To view a map of the proposed expansion, see this story at http://www.heraldandnews.com/news/commissioners-join-opposition-to-monument-expansion/article_05a84a19-cf67-5ac9-8661-3fe3e1b45c37.html

New commissioners also against monument expansion

Incoming Klamath County Commissioners say they share the current board's opposition to expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and would support efforts to re-tool or reject the proposal in the future.

Commissioner-elect Donnie Boyd and presumptive election winner Derrick DeGroot said Tuesday they believe expansion would reduce the strength of the local economy and said they support the many residents who have come out against the proposal.

Boyd won the race for commissioner position one when he received a majority of votes during the primary election. DeGroot became the sole candidate for commissioner position three after incumbent Jim Bellet withdrew from the race Aug. 9.

Both have since been attending regular commissioner meetings and are expected to take office Jan. 3.

When asked by sitting commissioners to provide their thoughts, both incoming officials said they agree with most, if not all, of the board's position.

“The last thing I think we need to do is take away our wealth-building industries in Klamath County,” said Boyd of expansion's potential impact on the timber industry.

“Without that stuff, all we're doing is transporting money around people's hands,” he continued.

“I support the board's move here today to compose a letter and formally oppose the monument,” said DeGroot, who attended an earlier town hall meeting about expansion and said he supports the public's opposition to the plan.

Boyd also thanked Commissioner Tom Mallams for taking the lead in organizing the town hall meeting, which was one of multiple forums throughout the region to gather public input. Mallams had encouraged Sen. Jeff Merkley to hold a public hearing in Klamath Falls similar to a meeting held in Ashland Oct. 14 and, after Merkley declined, Mallams moved forward with a local town hall meeting.

Merkley's office will be accepting public input on monument expansion until Nov. 20, after which time a recommendation will be made to the Department of the Interior and later President Barack Obama.

Comments on expansion due Nov. 20

Those interested in submitting comments on the potential Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion can do so in two ways: submit comments online to www.merkley.senate.gov/contact, or by mail to Sen. Jeff Merkley, 10 S. Bartlett St., Suite 201, Medford, OR 97501.




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