Supporters, opponents and even local federal land managers are wondering just exactly what natural resources were protected and what got left out Thursday when President Barack Obama added nearly 48,000 acres to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.
Interested parties were scouring public maps and checking federal Bureau of Land Management spreadsheets to see how many acres of sensitive headwaters were protected from future logging and mining, as well as how much of BLM land designated last year for timber production was removed.
Local BLM officials will need to get all the electronic plot points for the new boundaries that snake through southeast Jackson County, western Klamath County and even Northern California's Siskiyou County, then overlay that onto resource maps to see exactly what's in the new-look monument.
BLM officials locally and in Washington, D.C., weren't even clear Friday exactly who drew the new boundaries that now place the monument on 113,013 acres in a footprint that covers about 137,500 acres and why they differed from boundaries proposed by Oregon's U.S. Senate delegation.
"We'll work on getting a better understanding of what's involved in the new boundaries and what the land-use allocations are," said Medford District BLM spokesman Jim Whittington.
"We now have a monument in three different (BLM) districts in two different states," Whittington said. "It's not even 24 hours old. We have a lot of work to do."
That angers opponents who believe the new boundaries framed by Obama's use of the Antiquities Act a week before leaving office made it impossible to learn the real impacts of designation before the proclamation was signed.
"That tells me so much," said Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resource Council. "How in the world could this be a fully vetted proposal? And this will impact future generations.
"That seems like a last-minute effort to get something done," Joseph said.
Protecting the unique habitats, floral and fauna that President Bill Clinton called "spectacular biological diversity" when he authorized the original chunk of the monument in 2000 has been a decades-long passion of Dave Willis, one of the key members of a group that argued for the expansion.
A 2011 scientific study concluded that the original borders were more artificial than ecologically based and that the expansion was needed to connect wild areas and add high-elevation lands to help protect water for unique drainages such as Jenny Creek in the face of climate change.
Willis said his group had drawn several different draft maps as part of its efforts, but the one that came out of Capitol Hill on Thursday left off what he called some key areas to create that connectivity.
Portions of Buck Mountain that include some of high-elevation areas of Jenny Creek's watershed were on earlier maps, including the one proposed by Democratic U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, did not make the final cut. Most draft maps were drawn around Howard Prairie and the federal Bureau of Reclamation holdings there, but the final map turned the lake and many of the lands north of it into a peninsula.
Willis called the exclusions "disappointing" because the scientists who drafted the 2011 report concluded north-and-south connectivity of the forest there was very important.
However, he said, the new monument footprint contains more habitat connectivity and protects more biodiversity.
"We're trying to stop this unraveling and turn this biological corridor into an ecological ground rope and maybe strengthen it into a cable," Willis said.
"This has been protect the best and restore the best from the very beginning," Willis said. "This is a great step forward. There's still more work to be done."
The AFRC's Joseph said he believes his review of BLM spreadsheets involving what's now known about the boundaries show at least 5,000 acres of timberlands included in the BLM's new resource-management plan for the Medford District lie within the new boundaries. Under monument rules, commercial timber cutting is now off-limits, and tree removal is allowed only for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety.
Industrial standards link 12 direct jobs for every 1 million board-feet of timber logged and milled commercially, Joseph said. So, if those lands were tapped for just 5 million board-feet of timber annually, that's 60 direct jobs lost because of the monument designation.
"We know these are special lands, we love them, too," Joseph said. "But these jobs are tangible things lost forever with the designation."
Whittington said any changes to BLM land uses could lead to a revision or amendment to the district's resource-management plan.
Along with portions of the Jenny Creek Basin, the expansion added places in Jackson County such as the Grizzly Peak area, Lost Lake, portions of the Rogue Valley foothills and Hoxie Creek.
Like the roughly 19,000 acres of private land already inside the monument, the 32,977 acres of additional private land inside the new boundary would remain private and not part of the monument. Of the new private lands within the new monument footprint, 32,576 acres are within Oregon and 401 acres are in California.
The new footprint includes 4,917 acres of state-owned land in California that are not part of the monument.
The expansion does not block public access to the public lands within its boundaries, but it could lead to some changes in how those lands are accessed. For instance, the BLM had been working on a transportation plan for the former monument lands that called for the closing or decommissioning of anywhere between 6 miles to 165 miles of the 412 miles of roads.
The original monument designation blocks all motorized and mechanized off-road use. However, Thursday's designation calls for a new transportation plan that could allow for what the BLM called "reasonable" off-road snowmobile and mountain bike use in the expansion area, provided that use is compatible with managing monument habitats.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.