AFRC Challenges Illegal Monument Expansion in Southern Oregon and Northern California

Portland, Oregon – On Friday, the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) filed a legal challenge to Presidential Proclamation 9564, an order signed by President Obama in his final days of office nearly doubling the size of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon and Northern California.  AFRC President, Travis Joseph, issued the following statement:

“This lawsuit is about two things.  First, it’s about following the law.  We are asking a simple, but important, question: can the President of the United States unilaterally designate public lands for a specific purpose, in this case a national monument, that directly nullifies and contravenes an Act of Congress that requires these exact same lands to be managed for an entirely different purpose – supporting local governments though sustainable forest management?

President Obama’s proclamation is troubling and, if left unchallenged, could set a dangerous precedent allowing presidents – Republican or Democratic – to circumvent Congress, reinterpret federal mandates, and ignore the formal public involvement process through executive decree.

Frankly, whether you support or oppose the monument expansion, this case is about protecting the fundamental Constitutional principle of separation of powers.  Congress makes laws and the president enforces those laws – including on public land management decisions.  It is important that the President, regardless of party, always follow the law and the Constitution.

Second, this is about doing the right thing for the landscape and future generations.  Federal forests in Southern Oregon are unique and are facing serious ecological threats like climate change, catastrophic wildfire, disease, bug infestation, and drought.  By so broadly restricting forest management, the monument expansion actually imperils many of the natural values it claims to protect.

AFRC and its members are passionate about the future of these lands and want to ensure these forests are healthy, sustainable, and enjoyed by future generations.  The best way to do that is through the type of science-based active management– not by drawing arbitrary lines on a map and ignoring the advice of professional land managers.

“Honestly, I wish we didn’t have to file this lawsuit.  We raised these issues with the Obama administration, the Oregon Congressional Delegation, and Governor Brown back in October.  We didn’t get a single response.  We participated in the limited ‘public process’ to highlight our serious concerns about impacts to the local communities, mills, and workers.  But, we were ignored.  Our last and only remaining option to be responsible stewards of this land for future generations, and – importantly – to enforce existing law, is to go to court.

In an October 13, 2016 letter sent to Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, AFRC outlined its concerns about the proposed expansion and the legal precedent of using the Antiquities Act to administratively withdraw productive timberlands from the statutory mandate of the O&C Act of 1937.  The same letter was sent to then-Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor and Oregon Governor Kate Brown.  No response was ever received.

Opposition to Monument Expansion also includes elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of Oregonians:

Oregon Senator Herman Baertschiger Jr., Senate District 2

Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, Senate District 28

Oregon Representative Mike McLane, House District 55

Oregon Representative Carl Wilson, House District 3

Oregon Representative Gail Whitsett, House District 56

Oregon Representative Sal Esquivel, House District 6

Oregon Representative Duane Stark, House District 4

Association of O&C Counties

Klamath County Board of Commissioners

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors

Jackson County Board of Commissioners

Opposition also includes:

Medford/Jackson Chamber of Commerce

Healthy Forests Healthy Communities

Congressman Rob Bishop (UT), Chairman of U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources

Congressman Greg Walden (OR), Chairman of U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Congressman Tom McClintock (CA), Chairman of U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA), Member of U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources