Bill includes money to expand Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

A $32.2 billion Interior Department appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010 en route to President Obama's desk includes $1 million to purchase islands of private parcels from willing sellers within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Another $350,000 is earmarked for a visitor center at Crater Lake National Monument.

The funds are part of nearly $7 million for Oregon projects announced Friday by Oregon Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. The 2010 fiscal year began Oct. 1.

"This bill will put people to work keeping our forests healthy and preserve and protect some of Oregon's most treasured places, from Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to Hells Canyon," Merkley said in a prepared statement.

It will also create jobs through the replacement of deteriorated infrastructure, updating clean drinking water systems and protecting local communities from the threat of wildfires and floods," he added.

" . . . this bill will protect both the health of Oregonians and Oregon's natural resources," Wyden said.

The $1 million for the 52,940-acre monument will be used to complete the transfer of land from the Pacific Forest Trust to the federal government, explained Jim Whittington, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.

Based in San Francisco, the nonprofit trust dedicated to preserving forestland has purchased nearly 5,000 acres, much of it former timber company land, that it is transferring to the agency at cost. Although some 60 percent of the land within the monument's boundaries is federally owned, there are islands of private parcels within its perimeter.

The monument is in the mountainous region immediately southeast of Ashland where the Cascade, Klamath and Siskiyou ranges converge. It was created in 2000 because of its rich diversity of plant and animal species, some found nowhere else on earth. For example, 120 species of butterflies dwell within the monument.

Each land acquisition will be managed to protect the resource, Whittington said.

The funding for the Crater Lake visitor center will allow the National Park Service to renovate the currently boarded-up 1928 "campers store" building on the crater's rim to turn it into a visitor center covering some 5,000 square feet.

Paul Fattig is a Mail Tribune reporter. Reach him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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