DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: A Monument to Good Decision-Making
It is difficult to pinpoint the number of visitors to the “great outdoors” each year in America. The National Parks report some 300 million each year, which include people heading out to some 400 parks, the likes of Yosemite and Glacier.
But National Parks are different from National Forests, which are filled with hikers and campers each summer, and if you head just an hour north to the Umpqua National Forest, some of the most amazing canoeing and fishing in Diamond Lake.
And, well, that number doesn’t even consider the state and city parks and picnic spaces dotting the landscape, or bike paths like Bear Creek.
Suffice to say, Americans like to get outdoors; there is something, well, American, about the outdoors, from iconic vistas like the Grand Canyon, or Mt Hood, or Crater Lake defining how we imagine our collective landscape, to simply the Thoreauian notions on which the country’s psyche were founded.
But I’m waxing poetically tangent-to-topic: What is important is that President Donald Trump doesn’t seem much in the mood to care about this; specifically, the current White House administration has targeted 27 recently enacted or expanded national monuments. In southern Oregon, the Siskiyou National Monument is in his crosshairs.
In April, Trump announced that he plans to revoke 27 national monuments; specifically, he is demanding that the executive power to create national monuments be reviewed; which, in his words, is “wrong.”
From the fog of Trumpism, two primary arguments seem to have emerged as the basis for threatening these monuments. First, the administration claims there has been no real public process for declaring these spaces of natural wonder and importance as off-limits to logging and mining. At a press conference in April, Trump called the ability for presidents to declare a place a monument an “egregious abuse of power.”
His criticism was seemingly meant for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but really the slapped the face of 16 different presidents, as nearly every president in the past century has used the “power.” (For Trump, the Siskiyou Monument is a double-whammie, as 80,000 acres were first enacted by President Clinton in 2000, and then expanded nearly 50,000 more acres in January 2017 by Obama.)
Of course, the claim that past presidents have abused their power in this regard is ironic and off-the-mark. For starters, simply by the numbers, declaring national monuments is about as non-partisan as it gets. It is as Democratic as Republican. Moreover, it is a hypocritical argument from a man who treated his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord like a reality TV show, withholding his decision for a day or so until enough media was paying attention, and then giving his rationale as it was an attempt to bolster other country’s respect for Americans.
Beyond the political posturing and accusations that this is an abuse of power, the National Monument process—especially in the Siskiyou’s case—has enjoyed extensive public input. This was not some strong arm by President Obama. All told, a public comment period sponsored by Oregon U.S. senators showed 4,313 respondents in support of the expansion and 1,175 against.
The second argument against National Monuments is that they hurt the economy by taking away logger and miners ability to extract natural resources, and curtail ranchers’ gazing “rights.” However, that also is a bunk argument—and one that this region should know too well.
In the 80s, this was the same argument over federal regulations on logging, and again, this is the philosophical difference between taking from the land, rather than working with it—and, the very really difference between short-term gains as opposed to a sustainable economy.
“Communities living near protected lands like monuments are growing their economies faster than communities without protected lands,” said Tim Ream, KS Wild’s Program Director. “The Rogue Valley jobs of today and tomorrow are in service sectors. Dead enders who think we’re going back to a logging or mining economy need to wake up and join the 21st century.”
More empirically, in a study of 17 local economies adjacent to national monuments, the Headwaters Economic Institute found that each expanded following the federal declaration.
All of which is to say: Whether it is for your own enjoyment, for philosophical reasons or economic ones, maintaining the Siskiyou National Monument is right and is good for the region. Heck, when’s the last time you think Trump went camping? What does he know?