Lawsuit filed to reverse monument land grab

The Association of O&C Counties,

The Association of O&C Counties (AOCC)  filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming the Obama Administration’s inclusion of Oregon & California (“O&C”) lands within the newly-expanded Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument violates the O&C Act, and exceeds the scope of presidential authority under the Antiquities Act.

The O&C Act requires land agencies to manage O&C lands for sustained yield timber production to generate revenue for host O&C Counties and to provide an economic base for local industries and communities. AOCC says more than 80 percent of the proposed expansion is O&C land, and because Congress set aside the lands for a specific purpose, the President did not have authority to place the timberland into the expanded monument for a different purpose.

“The expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument will encompass 48,000 acres, almost all of which are O&C lands,” said Douglas County Commissioner and AOCC President Tim Freeman. “The ink was hardly dry on the BLM’s restrictive new resource management plan before the president expanded the monument from the small amount left for sustained yield management. The counties have no choice but to defend these lands for the purposes Congress intended them for. These lands provide critical revenue for vital county services and we must do everything possible to keep these lands productive.”

AOCC says a past Department of the Interior solicitor determined the President lacks authority under the Antiquities Act to include O&C lands in a national monument. In Solicitors Opinion M. 30506, the Solicitor said the President could not include O&C lands in a National Monument if the lands were classified as timberlands under the O&C Act.

“The tens of thousands of acres of timberland added to the monument were designated by federal law to be managed for sustained yield timber harvest under the O&C Act of 1937 and they are directly threatened by the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument,” said Polk County Commissioner Craig Polk. “President Obama’s decision to flatly ignore a Solicitor General opinion gives us a strong case to challenge this expansion. I believe that all engaged O&C County leaders see this violation of the rule of law as an erosion of intended collaboration in protecting American treasures while simultaneously fulfilling economic vitality from public lands.”

Counties depend on shared timber receipts from sustained yield timber production to pay for essential public services of all kinds, from public safety such as sheriff patrols and jails to public heath programs and libraries. When O&C lands are withdrawn from sustained yield management, there is a direct financial loss to county governments and a loss of services to local citizens. County commissioners say the loss of timber supply from the monument expansion would be a major blow to local economies for communities in Klamath and Jackson Counties, and perhaps as far away as Douglas County where there are sawmills within hauling distance of harvests that would take place on BLM lands in the Medford District and the Klamath Resource Area.

“I’m particularly concerned about the impact on the 40 + full-time staff at the Klamath Falls Resource Area offices of the BLM. Many of these members of our community are reportedly likely to lose their jobs because of this expansion,” said Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris.

County commissioners say the litigation against the federal government wouldn’t have been necessary if the Obama Administration had adequately consulted the Counties and local communities before expanding the monument. In addition to AOCC’s formal objection to the proposal, the monument expansion was opposed by Jackson, Klamath and Siskiyou (CA) Counties where the monument is located.

“It is very disappointing that Jackson County’ input was not sought initially in the planning phases of the expansion,” said Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts. “To add to the disappointment, the county held a public hearing, took public comment, and compiled and submitted hundreds of pages of testimony against the expansion. Yet the expansion occurred anyway. It is a matter of county concern and the county was ignored.”

A copy of AOCC’s complaint can be downloaded here.

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