Date: October 17, 2016
Ashland, Ore. – On Friday, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor joined Senator Jeff Merkley, Mayor John Stromberg of Ashland and Mayor Darby Stricker of Talent as well as other state, local and tribal officials, to listen to members of the community on their vision for the management of public lands in Southwestern Oregon, and the proposed expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
At Southern Oregon University, where the public meeting had approximately 550 attendees, Deputy Secretary Connor heard comments from around 120 members of the community for almost four hours about conservation proposals for Southwestern Oregon, including Senator Merkley’s proposal to expand the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The majority of speakers supported the expansion, citing the science-based reasons for expansion, the benefits of recreation tourism to the community, and the need to protect the land for future generations. While in Oregon, Connor also hiked through the proposed expansion area.
“For more than five years, local scientists and communities have worked to ensure that this ecological wonder is protected and preserved for future generations,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Senator Merkley has spearheaded an outstanding effort to listen to local voices and to work with the community to bring about this proposal and to hear from all sides. These meetings make clear this Administration’s ongoing efforts to work with communities, local officials and organizations to determine how best to protect our nation’s treasures.”
In August, Senators Merkley and Wyden sent a letter urging U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to expand the existing monument in order to continue protecting the ecological integrity of the area. Friday’s public meeting builds on a more than five-year effort from the local scientific community to protect the area’s extraordinary biodiversity from the threat of climate change, encroaching residential development, and other land use pressures, and contributes to the Administration’s ongoing work to support locally-driven efforts to preserve and protect places that hold special meaning to communities across the country.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is the first monument established primarily for the preservation of biodiversity. The presidential proclamation that originally established the monument describes the area as an ‘ecological wonder’ that is ‘home to a spectacular variety of rare and beautiful species of plants and animals, whose survival in this region depends upon its continued ecological integrity.’ Senator Merkley’s proposal to expand the monument would protect approximately 50,000 additional acres, largely in Oregon, with 5,000 acres in California.