California Forum

Don’t let Trump hand this pristine national monument to industry

The sun breaks through the clouds on a hazy day at the monument's northern border, before the expansion, east of Ashland, Ore.
The sun breaks through the clouds on a hazy day at the monument's northern border, before the expansion, east of Ashland, Ore.

On a clear day, standing on a ridge in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument overlooking the Soda Mountain Wilderness, I can see the majestic peaks of Mount Ashland and Mount McLoughlin, and even the rim of Crater Lake in Oregon and Mount Shasta in California.

And yet the Department of the Interior has listed Cascade Siskiyou National Monument as one of 27 national monuments up for “review” under President Donald Trump’s executive order. Don’t let this fool you: These reviews are the first step toward opening monuments to industrial development, including oil and gas drilling and large-scale logging.

I take Trump’s attack personally – Cascade-Siskiyou is in the heart of where I live and embodies the importance of protecting large, wild landscapes.

I take Trump’s attack personally – Cascade-Siskiyou is in the heart of where I live and embodies the importance of protecting large, wild landscapes. The monument’s boundaries form a wildlife corridor between the Cascade Mountains and the Siskiyou Wilderness in Oregon and Northern California, where wildlife thrive.

On any given day, you might see mountain lions, bobcats, Columbian black-tailed deer, hundreds of species of birds (including endangered species like the gray owl), rare redband trout in Jenny Creek and 135 species of butterflies floating along rolling hills of wildflowers. They couldn’t survive without these protected lands and watersheds.

National monuments are set aside by Congress or the president as public spaces because of their historical or scientific significance. This particular monument was created because it’s one of the most bio-diverse temperate areas on the planet.

Standing on that ridge, looking north, I think of the famous wolf “OR-7” (nicknamed “Journey” by schoolchildren) who trekked through this land on his incredible travels between Oregon and Northern California. The return of endangered wolves to their native homes is a sign of the region’s health and importance. The handful of wolves in these states, the first in nearly a century, need the protection of this monument. It is a safe passage home.

Climbing Pilot Rock, where you can see all the way to the volcano that is Mount Shasta 90 miles to the south, or meandering down the spiny outcrop of Boccard Point, with views of the Cascades and the Siskiyou mountains, it’s clear that this monument is the heart of a region many other creatures call home. It is vital not just to the people who live here but to the incredible ecosystem in its folds.

I’ve seen black bears, foxes, eagles and hawks, bats and tree frogs on my hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through 19 miles of mixed pines, cedars, Manzanita, junipers and oak groves, and draws tourists from all over the world. Dismantling public lands like this monument could deal a fatal blow to the vital biodiversity of its ecosystems, leaving it looking as tattered and barren as the treeless landscapes of the southern Oregon border of the Siskiyou Crest.

And our monument is overwhelmingly supported by local communities, including mayors, city councils, state legislators and local tribes. We want it expanded, not cut. The unique character of the land up here and the diversity of wildlife are rooted in our economy, our identity, our history and our future.

No president has ever removed a monument designation and the law doesn’t allow it. But this administration sees public lands as cash cows to be sold, mined, clear cut and grazed ‒ against the will of those of us who live here.

Our natural wonders aren’t for sale. We will fight for every acre of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. The public can comment on this issue at www.regulations.gov until July 10.

Jennifer Molidor leads sustainable food initiatives for the Center for Biological Diversity. She lives in Siskiyou County, just south of the monument’s border, and can be reached at jmolidor@biologicaldiversity.org.

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