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Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument litigation could resume

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument { }(Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregonians are waiting to find out what the Trump administration will do with the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument after news that two national monuments in Utah will be scaled back.

Oregon's national monument is on the same Trump administration short list for boundary modifications as the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, but what modifications are planned for it are still unclear. The list also includes Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada.

The Obama administration nearly doubled the size of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to protect biological diversity, expanding it from 66,000 acres to 113,000 acres. The lands in southwest Oregon have long been at the center of a political struggle among loggers, off-road enthusiasts and environmentalists.

The expansion was immediately challenged by groups who argued it was illegal because the new boundaries included lands devoted to logging under federal statute.

Oregon U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden as well as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown condemned the proposal to shrink the monument in a news release Tuesday. They also said the report lacks specifics on what the administration wants to do.

"The Trump administration is ignoring the voices of thousands of Oregonians who have spoken out in favor of the monument, and is recklessly risking the future of irreplaceable biodiversity and natural wonder," Merkley said.

"This is not what the majority of Oregonians signed up for when they spoke out in favor of expanding protections for this Oregon treasure," said Wyden. "These public lands belong to all Oregonians and all Americans, not to corporations or Trump’s department heads."

“Any decision by the White House to dramatically reduce publicly protected lands to appease corporate interests will have lasting, generational implications,” Brown said.

Eighteen Oregon counties whose boundaries encompass these lands receive a share of those logging receipts and have fought to secure the money as timber dwindles.

Those lawsuits are now on hold until Jan. 15 as the plaintiffs — the Association of O&C Counties and the American Forest Resource Council — wait to see what the Trump administration will do.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured Cascade-Siskiyou this summer as part of a far-reaching review of recently designated monuments across the country.

Dave Willis with the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council told Oregon Public Broadcasting on Tuesday that his organization is prepared to take legal action to protect Cascade-Siskiyou "if and when" the White House acts. Environmental groups have already filed a lawsuit challenging the monument reductions in Utah.

Trump characterized the changes to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante as "restoring the rights of this land" to citizens. Past presidents have abused powers granted under the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments that are much larger than necessary, Trump said.

Grand Staircase-Escalante and Cascade-Siskiyou national monuments were both established by President Bill Clinton. Gold Butte and Bears Ears were designated by Obama.

KATU Staff contributed.

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