CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — The local city council and chamber of commerce
joined the growing chorus of grass-roots opposition to an

environmental activist plan to federalize more than 1 million acres
of southwestern Oregon.

The Cave Junction City Council voted 3-0 with one abstention last week to oppose the creation of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument, a plan sitting on the desk of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. The proposal is being promoted by a coalition of environmental activist groups including the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the World Wildlife Fund.

Area of Southern Oregon proposed as the “Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument.”

“I don’t have a problem with saving the environment, but I have a problem with the process,” explained Mayor Ed Faircloth. “The people of Illinois Valley should have had input in the initial proposal. What if this proposal comes to pass? We won’t know the effect until the management plan is complete. There are a lot of unknowns with this.”

Meanwhile, the local chamber of commerce also voted to oppose the monument and sent a letter to Clinton advising him of the position.

“Most of us are not indifferent to the establishment of monuments, or to the proposition thereof,” wrote Ross Welcome, president of the Illinois Valley business group. “We are concerned, though, about the feasibility of the monument for the Illinois Valley area. This concern is not shrouded in personal beliefs or convictions, but in the prospective guidelines set into motion by our forefathers, that the ‘people have the right to govern themselves.'”

Opponents are holding weekly meetings in this town in rural southwestern Oregon and attracting upwards of 500 citizens who believe the declaration of a national monument will severely restrict mining, logging, development, grazing, farming and recreation in the area and eliminate jobs in an already depressed economy.

Ever since Clinton announced his Lands Legacy Initiative in January of last year, Babbitt has been zigzagging the West looking for areas already administered by the

Bureau of Land Management
he deems in need of special protection by the federal government as national monuments, critical habitat areas or other designation. This year, the president has designated at least five such monuments — but none as big as the proposed Siskiyou Wild Rivers Monument that encompasses more than one million acres of mostly rugged forest surrounding the Illinois Valley towns of Cave Junction, Selma, Kerby and O’Brien and a rural population of some 17,000.

Opponents of the monument say the real agenda of the project is to drive out those pesky people.

“They call these ‘public’ lands,” said one protester. “But they’re not public at all. The purpose of this plan is to keep the public out.”

While the monument project does not specifically call for relocation of the small population, opponents say that is what will be accomplished by increasingly tough environmental regulations, protection of so-called “endangered species,” downsizing of fire-fighting crews and closing of roads. All that, they say, coupled with a willingness by government to exercise eminent domain, condemnation and buyouts of private property, will inevitably lead to depopulation.

If approved by Clinton or his successor, the Siskiyou Wild River Monument would be the second largest ever created. The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Clinton’s designation of 1.7 million acres of Utah land as a federal wilderness area and monument in 1998.

Clinton has used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to justify his monument proclamations. During his entire time in office, Clinton has created or added to 10 national monuments, covering nearly 4 million western acres in his effort to carve out an environmental legacy. Clinton’s top aides have stated the president plans to continue to use his authority in issuing executive orders, presidential decision directives and proclamations right up until the day he leaves office.

Earlier story:

Opposition builds to new land grab

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