Federal Judge Upholds Expansion of Ecological Wonder Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
In a win for public land protections, court rejects timber company’s arguments that monument lands should be for timber production only
MEDFORD, OR. — In a win for a national monument stretching from Southwest Oregon into Northern California, a federal judge rejected a logging company’s challenge to President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2017. The monument was first protected in 2000 under the Antiquities Act as an ecological wonder, known for its incredible diversity of species. Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center represent Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild, and The Wilderness Society as defendant-intervenors in the case.
“Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of America’s natural wonders, not a collection of standing logs for a timber company,” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney. “We’re grateful that the Court rejected Murphy Timber’s arguments and that this incredible monument will remain protected for all of us.”
Oregon logging company Murphy Timber brought one of three lawsuits against President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou, arguing that a 1937 law known as the Oregon and California Lands (O&C) Act committed some 40,000 acres of the expansion to commercial timber production, making those lands ineligible for inclusion in a monument. Local conservation organizations intervened to defend the monument. The judge ruled that there was no dispute that President Obama acted within his authority when expanding the national monument and that there was no irreconcilable conflict between the Antiquities Act and the O&C Act.
“The Court saw through the confusion timber plaintiffs sought to create,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “The O&C Act’s principle of sustained yield ensures that the forest is managed in perpetuity - it does not conflict with the Antiquities Act.”
“The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a great gift to present and future generations,” said Dave Willis, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council chair and long-time Monument-area advocate. “We’re very glad this Court saw fit to not let the logging company take any of this gift away.”
“The lands included in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, all of them, are owned by the public and managed on the behalf of the public,” said Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “The logging industry is not entitled to come in and trash them for profit, especially when there are other much greater values at stake.”
In 1937, Congress sought to put an end to wasteful and destructive logging practices that clear-cut large forested areas for short-term gain. The Oregon and California Lands Act instituted a conservation ethic on former railroad lands. The court ruling today confirmed that the law does not conflict with the 1906 Antiquities Act under which presidents are granted the authority by Congress to designate national monuments on federal lands and waters.
The local environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center, are defending the monument expansion in the other two lawsuits filed by timber interests in Washington D.C.
Scientists, the Klamath Tribes, and Local Conservationists Rallied for Cascade-Siskiyou
The monument connects three ecoregions, and is a biological corridor for Pacific fisher, mule deer, gray wolves, and spotted owls, and is also a designated winter range for black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk. Seventy scientists and the governments of the two towns closest to the monument joined a call in 2011 from 15 independent scientists for an expansion of the monument.
President Clinton designated Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on June 9, 2000 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. On January 12, 2017, President Obama expanded the monument by approximately 47,000 acres to protect its ecological integrity – including 5,000 acres in Northern California – after scientists, the Klamath Tribes, local communities, conservationists, Oregon’s governor, and both Oregon’s U.S. Senators urged its expansion.
Cascade-Siskiyou is home to roughly 20 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, which passes Pilot Rock as the famous National Scenic Trail winds through several miles of the Soda Mountain Wilderness in the Monument’s southern backcountry. The monument also offers popular ski and snowshoe trails in the Buck Prairie Winter Recreation Area and hosts much of the 55-mile Cascade Siskiyou Scenic Bikeway.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument serves the local economy. Economic research from Headwaters Economics shows that between 2001 and 2015, the population of Jackson County increased 16 percent, real personal income grew 30 percent, real per capita income grew 12 percent, and jobs grew by 14 percent.
The monument offers quality recreation access for camping, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. In the big picture, outdoor recreation funnels $16.4 billion into Oregon’s economy every year, creates $749 million in state and local tax revenue, and supports 172,000 jobs in the state.
Scientists warn that if the monument’s protections are revoked or its boundaries shrunk, Cascade-Siskiyou's rich tapestry of species and natural communities would face increasing threats from commercial logging, continued livestock grazing, and other development known to adversely impact the area’s biological treasures.