Donald Trump has just carried out his threat to shrink some national monuments. He’s reducing the Bears Ears National Monument to 15 percent of its size and cutting Grand Staircase-Escalante in half. Both are in Utah. Next on Trump’s monument-dismantling list may be the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument on the edge our own valley. We say no.
You could write pages on how extraordinary the CSNM is in its unique biodiversity, pristine wildlife habitat, watershed purity and importance as a connecting corridor for migrating species. It astonishes scientists and delights visitors from all over world. Which takes us to the second vital point: the push to gut the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument is an assault on Southern Oregon’s economy.
It’s very much like Trump’s promise to “bring back Coal!” and get all those displaced miners back to work. What a cruel hoax. Not only does it prey on the heartbreak of tens of thousands of people who lost their livelihoods to irreversible macro-economic changes, automation and corporate profiteering. It hurts them doubly by peddling a false hope that slows down progress toward actual jobs, clean energy jobs that other regions are actively creating. Anyone with an ounce of true concern for displaced coal miners would never do what Trump has done.
This is the same thing: let’s “bring back timber!” Never mind the fact that logging and milling have been automated to the point that they employ tiny numbers of people these days, even in the largest operations. Never mind that any qualified analyst of our economic landscape will tell you that visitors to this world-class corner of the natural world generate far more jobs than logging or cattle-grazing would. Never mind that, whether you focus first on environmental health or real-world jobs (which, we’re discovering more and more, go together), shrinking the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a terrible idea.
Southern Oregonians in the timber industry were badly hurt 25-30 years ago by a cluster of causes. Whatever efforts we made to help them weren’t enough. Some of them might feel angry or bitter about the monument’s protection of the kind of forest they were able to log years ago; in their shoes, that’s how I’d probably feel. But that’s no reason to hurt them again with fairy tales about returning to logging’s glory days, and hurt all the rest of us by dismantling one of our region’s most precious assets.
That would be both cruel and stupid. It’s up to us to do all we can to protect the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
— Jeff Golden is a 45-year Rogue Valley resident, a former Jackson County commissioner, and producer/host of Immense Possibilities (www.immmensepossibilities.org).