Welcoming Interior Secretary Zinke back to southern Oregon

News from Representative Walden

Recently, I had the pleasure of welcoming Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke back to southern Oregon. As a fellow Oregon Duck, Secretary Zinke knows this region well and loves the beauty of our public lands — he even chose to hang a painting of Crater Lake behind his desk back in the Department of the Interior.

Secretary Zinke spent two days getting a firsthand look at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the recent expansion. Secretary Zinke is taking a personal approach to his review of Cascade-Siskiyou. Rather than looking at the monument on a map in Washington D.C., he came here to see what’s on the ground and meet with passionate folks on all sides of this issue.

Click here or on the image above to view a recap video of Secretary Zinke’s tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

During our visit, we saw some of the traditional uses, landscape, and features we love about our public lands in southern Oregon. We can all agree that there are values worth protecting and that we can achieve a balance. That is certainly a goal of mine, and I know it is a goal of Secretary Zinke’s as he conducts his review of Cascade-Siskiyou.

Local ranchers discuss range management with Secretary Zinke and I during our tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Secretary Zinke and I took a few questions from the local press at the conclusion of our tour.

As a lifelong Oregonian, protecting our environment and the natural treasures in our state is an important and personal issue for me. That is why I’ve worked on legislation in the past to protect areas like Soda Mountain and Steens Mountain. These efforts work best, however, from the ground up with local input from all sides.

The Secretary and I heard from proponents of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument at the BLM office in Medford recently.

Following the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by President Obama, I heard from county commissioners, ranchers, foresters and private property owners who had concerns with the expansion and felt ignored during the process. More than a third of the newly designated area is private land and a large amount of public lands are governed by the O&C Act which prescribes active timber management with considerable proceeds going to fund local services. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the President has sole discretion when determining how much land is designated and how it will be managed. Some Presidents have had thorough, local vetting processes and others have chosen to designate areas with no opportunity for local input. I think there’s a better way. That’s why I’ve introduced the Public Input for National Monuments Act, to require these designations to go through the National Environmental Policy Act, and formally gather public input like is required on other public land management decisions.

Secretary Zinke and I met with local officials to discuss the impact of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on local counties and timber lands.

President Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was like a bad sequel. Ignoring concerns from opponents has once again left a patchwork of public and private land and uses within the monument creating conflicts much like  the challenges after the original designation by President Clinton.  Of the 80,000 acres within the expansion boundary, 38 percent is private land. Nearly 90 percent of the BLM land is timberland that was designated by Congress for permanent timber production and revenue to fund our counties under the O&C Act of 1937. During our tour, Secretary Zinke and I visited a rancher whose grazing allotment had been cut in half by the expansion, inhibiting a cooperative grazing program developed between the rancher, BLM and Forest Service to improve management of the range. We also saw irrigation canals, electric transmission lines, and a buried natural gas pipeline that cross this landscape–that’s far from being an untouched wilderness.

Photo by Mateusz Perkowski of the Capital Press Agriculture Weekly. Click here or on the image above to read the Capital Press article about Secretary Zinke’s tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

In southern Oregon, we’ve seen the problems left behind when land management decisions are made without meaningful public input. Secretary Zinke’s visit represents another productive step forward to rebuild public trust in the management of our federal lands. I know he will strongly consider the concerns and input — from all sides — as he completes his review of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. His report to the President is due by August 24.

That’s all for this update. Remember, you can always keep in touch with me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It is an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

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