Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, in the extreme north of California and south of Oregon, contains one of the most biodiverse regions in the west. This ecological hotspot is home to a number of mountain ranges and confluences, creating high diversity as well as a critical location for migrations. The Siskiyou Mountains, Cascade Range, and Modoc Plateau all converge in this region. In total, the CSNM covers nearly 87,000 acres of mountains, old growth forests, wild and scenic rivers, and rolling grasslands in Oregon and California. As the first monument set aside exclusively for its biodiversity, Cascade-Siskiyou holds a special place in America’s assortment of public lands. In addition to its ecological value, the Monument holds a great number of unique historic archaeological sites, remnants of the Modoc, Klamath, and Shasta Native American tribes that once inhabited the area.
The monument was originally established by Bill Clinton in 2000. In 2017, near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama expanded the monument to include several thousand acres in northern California. Part of this expansion, which nearly doubled the size of CSNM, was done in recognition of climate change and its likely impacts on the area’s flora and fauna. Because of the expansion, the Monument now covers a significantly greater range of elevations, creating a climate refuge. Many species are anticipated to have range shifts upward in elevation and latitude as temperatures continue to rise globally. Not only is the CSNM an important place with regards to its historical and ecological values, it is a monument with boundaries that reflect the current scientific consensus on climate change impacts.
Per the direction of President Trump, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has placed more than two dozen national monuments under review, claiming that previous presidents overstepped their authority in protecting these public lands from development. Two Utah monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, have had their boundaries shrunk (with several lawsuits pending on both), and Zinke has recommended several more boundary changes – including Cascade-Siskiyou.
This national monument review has been conducted poorly and under false pretenses. Spurred by logging and fossil fuel industries, the Department of the Interior ignored information that lauded the benefits of national monuments, including biodiversity and cultural heritage, instead seeking out information that supported immediate development of the land through more extractive uses. In the case of CSNM, part of the review process has included assuring timber and logging companies that large swathes of forest will be able to be converted to production immediately after the review process. The boundaries that were expanded to protect the future of biodiversity in the Cascade Ranges could shrink or disappear entirely, leaving essential habitat vulnerable to development and the growing threat of climate change. To read the Washington Post’s exposé on the monument review, click here.
All national monuments are at risk under this review, not just Cascade-Siskiyou. The Trump administration’s blatant disregard of scientific consensus leaves our public lands vulnerable and threatened. CalWild continues to be a strong advocate in defense of California’s national monuments, and will not hesitate to defend Cascade-Siskiyou and other public lands in court should it be necessary.