WASHINGTON, D.C. July 18, 2023 – The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the legality of an expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument made by President Obama in 2017, reversing a lower court decision that threw the Monument’s boundaries into doubt.
This federal court ruling joins a victorious ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April that also declared the monument expansion lawful.
“This lawsuit attempted to rob Oregonians and all Americans of a biological treasure that deserves permanent protection,” said Kristen Boyles, attorney with Earthjustice. “Appeals courts in DC and Seattle have now upheld Monument expansion, rejecting every single one of the timber industry’s arguments.”
The Monument was first designated in 2000 under the Antiquities Act as an ecological wonder known for its incredible diversity of species. The court decision today again confirms protection of these special federal lands and is a major victory for the Monument and the spectacular variety of plants, fish, and wildlife that depend on the Monument’s ecological integrity.
In upholding the Monument expansion and its protections, the appellate court in DC found that “The goal of the O&C Act, then, was to ‘provide conservation and scientific management for this vast Federal property…’ and the Monument’s expansion is itself consistent with sustained yield forestry.”
“The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a great gift to present and future generations,” said Dave Willis, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council chair and long-time Monument advocate. “We’re very glad this unanimous Court saw fit to not let logging companies take any of this gift away.”
Monument supporters, ranging from local residents and conservation groups to elected officials, business owners, scientists, botanists and hunters and anglers, have fought for decades to protect this special area straddling southwest Oregon and northwest California that is known worldwide for its remarkable biodiversity.
“Western Oregon BLM lands provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, and countless opportunities for recreation,” said Joseph Vaile, Climate Director with Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “This decision ensures that these public lands are managed for their many social and environmental values, including the phenomenal Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.”
“Once again, courts have rejected the logging industy’s abhorrent theory that BLM lands cannot be conserved,” said Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “ These are public lands, managed for more than just logging. Special places like the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and our mature and old-growth forests deserve to be safeguarded for fish and wildlife, clean drinking water, recreation, carbon, and other important values.”
The legal arguments in these cases hinged on whether a 1937 law, the Oregon and California Lands (O&C) Act, committed approximately 40,000 acres of the monument expansion to commercial logging, making those lands ineligible for inclusion in a monument.
The D.C. Circuit today rejected the industry’s arguments and affirmed that the President acted within his authority under the Antiquities Act when he expanded the national monument.
“This opinion cements the interpretation that the O&C Act provides BLM with authority to manage the O&C lands for many uses, including conservation and recreation,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney with Silvix Resources.
Earthjustice attorneys Ashley Bennett and Kristen Boyles and Silvix Resources attorney Susan Jane Brown represented Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Oregon Wild in defense of the Monument’s expansion.
Originally designated in 2000 by President Clinton and then expanded in 2017 by President Obama, Cascade-Siskiyou is the first and only national monument established specifically to protect biological diversity.
The Monument includes four distinct ecoregions that include a wide range of topography, climate, and geology, and is widely recognized as one of the most biologically diverse places in North America. It is an important ecological link for migration, genetic dispersal, and the process of evolution in the Pacific Northwest.
President Obama expanded the Monument in 2017 based on recommendations from a large group of scientists and strong support from local residents, tribes, conservationists, local business leaders, hunters, anglers, a large group of local, state, and federal elected officials, and others.
The expanded National Monument consists of approximately 114,000 acres of forest, meadow, and oak grasslands at the junction of the Cascade Range and the Siskiyou Mountains spanning southwestern Oregon and northwestern California.