As residents of Southern Oregon and Northern California, we are fortunate to live in one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America. Fortunately for us, and for all Americans, in June 2000 President Bill Clinton established the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, using the congressionally vested power of the Antiquities Act, to protect the natural values of this remarkable area.
Situated at the convergence of two mountain ranges and four distinct ecoregions, Cascade-Siskiyou is our nation’s only national monument specifically established to protect biodiversity.
Although the original monument proclamation clearly states that survival of the “spectacular variety of rare and beautiful species of plants and animals” in this region “depends upon its continued ecological integrity,” it became clear with time that the original monument boundaries were becoming inadequate. Scientists working in the region became concerned that encroaching development from an expanding human population and negative effects of a rapidly changing climate would likely render the original boundaries ineffective for maintaining ecological integrity and persistence of the biological diversity the monument was established to protect.
In early 2011, an interdisciplinary group of scientists with extensive research experience in the region conducted an analysis of the monument’s boundaries. Based on our evaluation, we recommended that the boundaries be extended to include more complete watersheds and protect cool headwater streams, to increase the range of elevations and topographic variation in order to allow plants and animals to adapt and respond to climate change, and to increase the representation of threatened habitats underrepresented in the original monument. An expanded monument would also enhance connections to adjacent public lands, extending protected corridors through which plants and animals could move. The study provided the basis for an open letter signed by 85 scientists from around the country strongly recommending monument expansion.
With clear scientific consensus, strong citizen support and recognition that the monument also offers a scenic backdrop and important recreational and quality-of-life benefits for their citizens, the city councils and Chamber boards of the two cities nearest the monument, Ashland and Talent, unanimously supported monument expansion. They were joined by their mayors, the state legislators within whose district the original monument is situated, the Klamath Tribes, both our U.S. senators and Oregon’s governor.
We should all be grateful for the leadership of President Obama, Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Gov. Kate Brown, in securing enhanced protection for this amazingly diverse and wonderfully unique corner of the world.
— Writing on his own behalf, Michael Parker, Ph.D., is an ecologist and sixth-generation Oregonian who chairs Southern Oregon University’s biology program.