The Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) is seeking support from the Oregon congressional delegation for reestablishment of the part of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument that was declared illegal by a federal judge in Washington DC. The Monument near the Oregon/California border was expanded in early 2017 by proclamation of President Obama. On November 25, 2019, Judge Richard Leon ruled the presidential proclamation is inconsistent with the O&C Act, a federal statute, and is therefore illegal. AOCC was one of the plaintiffs in that case.
“AOCC was never opposed to a legally proper designation of that area as a monument; our concern was the improper process by which the CSNM was expanded,” said Tim Freeman, Commissioner from Douglas County and President of the AOCC Board of Directors. “When O&C lands are involved, any new monument must be by congressional action, rather than by presidential proclamation. That is why we now support congressional action to restore the Monument in a way that respects the rule of law.”
BLM lands covered by the O&C Act were dedicated by congress in 1937 for sustained yield management and revenues produced from timber harvests are shared with county governments to help pay for public services. Monument status prevents sustained yield management. AOCC’s proposal therefore includes a provision that would keep the counties whole, by replacing all O&C lands included in the Monument with other, non-O&C lands. Replacement of O&C lands lost to monument status by reclassification of other federal lands is something only congress can do. Congress has previously taken similar such action, most recently in the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act, which transferred 32,000 acres of O&C lands to tribes. The Tribal Fairness Act required reclassification of an equal acreage of other, non-O&C federal lands in western Oregon to give them O&C status.
If the Association’s proposal is adopted, O&C lands in the Monument would total approximately 81,000 acres, which means 81,000 acres of public domain lands elsewhere in Western Oregon would be reclassified as O&C lands. “We think AOCC’s proposal is a good solution to the Monument controversy,” said Rocky McVay, AOCC’s executive Director. “There are other interests that will have to be accommodated, most notably the private property owners within the footprint of the Monument, but the congressional action we seek can be crafted to address those concerns. Where there is a will to work together, there is usually a way to solve almost any problem.”
AOCC has reached out to the offices of Senator Ron Wyden and Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden. “We expect to work with the whole delegation but hope these three will take the lead. They have been very helpful and willing to work with the counties in the past and we think they will recognize this as a good solution for everyone” added Commissioner Freeman.