Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument flora and fauna have increased needs for protection
By Kelsey Furman
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM or monument) is a federally protected area in Ashland’s backyard and located within the traditional homeland of the Takelmans, Athapaskans, Shastans, and Klamath peoples. At the convergence of the Cascade, Klamath and Siskiyou mountain ranges, the CSNM is widely considered an ecological gem and is the only national monument established specifically for its biodiversity. This special place contains an extraordinary array of plants, animals, and distinct ecoregions — all with increasing needs for protection, particularly due to human development and climate change.
President Clinton established the Monument in 2000 by utilizing the Antiquities Act of 1906. This act permits presidents to safeguard federally controlled landmarks of historic or scientific interest by proclaiming them national monuments. Once established, monument lands may be withdrawn from new commercial and mineral development. In 2017, President Obama used the same authority to expand the CSNM by 48,000 acres. This expansion increased protections for sensitive species, including the northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher, but also created new controversy.
Now the CSNM covers 114,000 acres and offers many public places to study, hike, ski, camp, hunt, bird watch, botanize, and explore. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees management of the monument according to the two presidential proclamations, both of which prohibit commercial timber harvest throughout the monument. In addition, the BLM is obligated to manage about 70% of the monument area according to the Oregon and California Revested Lands Act of 1937 (O&C Act). The O&C Act directs that specific land (primarily located throughout southern Oregon in a checkerboard pattern) is managed for “permanent forest production” and “sustained yield.” Two courts are currently deciding whether the obscure O&C Act supersedes a president’s authority to expand national monuments.
The timber industry immediately challenged President Obama’s expansion of the CSNM. One group of plaintiffs challenged the expansion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; another group of plaintiffs challenged the expansion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.
In 2019, Magistrate Judge Clarke and Judge McShane of the District Court of Oregon held that the monument expansion was lawful and that the O&C Act lands could be included within the monument’s boundaries.
A few months later, Judge Leon of the D.C. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a separate decision with the opposite outcome. Judge Leon found that the monument expansion violated the O&C Act and that timber extraction has priority over all other public lands values. Two years later, in November of 2021, Judge Leon issued part two of his decision. The subsequent order imposed specific reporting requirements upon the BLM over the following year, but was otherwise silent on the monument issue.
The BLM appealed both cases in their respective courts. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments for the favorable District of Oregon case on Aug. 30 of this year. While there is no required time frame, the court decides most cases within three months to a year. The D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments for the unfavorable D.C. case, American Forest Resource Council v. United States of America No. 20-5008, at on Nov. 16.
Regardless of the outcome of the imminent litigation, the president’s ability to protect and expand national monuments could very well head to the U.S. Supreme Court. As presidential power under the Antiquities Act is challenged, there is increasing urgency for the Biden administration to implement a science-based strategy to include BLM forests in developing environmental protections that focus on old-growth protection and carbon storage. Additionally, if BLM lands are to be managed for all the values they provide, including wildlife habitat, watershed protection, fire resiliency and recreation, the O&C Timber Act must be repealed.
Nov. 28 update: Byline, columnist photo and taglines corrected.