SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. judge has ruled that much of President Barack Obama’s expansion of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument just before he left office in 2017 was illegal.
Timber counties in western Oregon and the timber industry had challenged the expansion, as well as current Bureau of Land Management policy that reduces the amount of other lands available for commercial timber production.
They argued that those public lands were set aside by Congress explicitly for logging, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to the counties.
The District of Columbia District Court judge agreed with both challenges, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Tuesday.
A U.S. magistrate in Oregon earlier this year defended Obama’s expansion of the national monument.
Opponents of the expansion said that because it intrudes on land already reserved for timber production, Obama unilaterally disregarded an act of Congress.
Dave Willis, president of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council that has defended expansion of the national monument, said his organization, as an intervener in the case, plans to appeal this latest district court decision.
Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a plaintiff in both cases, doesn’t think the issue will be resolved soon.
“This could eventually find its way up to the Supreme Court to finally resolve this issue once and for all,” Joseph said.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton created Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a unique habitat where three mountain ranges converge, forming a biological corridor for mule deer, gray wolves and spotted owls. It is home to more than 200 bird species, the imperiled Oregon spotted frog, deer, elk and many kinds of fish.
Obama’s expansion extended it into Northern California, and onto 62 square miles (161 square kilometers) of land that Congress designated in 1937 for timber harvesting to allow local communities to prosper.
Information from Oregon Public Broadcasting