Monday, May 23, 2016

Proposed Canyonlands monument dominates talk at town hall

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said he has carried the message to Congress that the majority of people in Malheur County do not want a national monument, but that does not mean the conversation is not happening. The campaign by some environmental groups to have about 2.5 million acres in central and southern Malheur County designated by the president as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 was the dominant issue during Merkley’s town hall meeting at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Friday. Like U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Merkley holds a town hall meeting in all 36 Oregon counties every year. Rancher Steve Russell was the first to bring up the issue, asking Oregon’s junior senator whether he supported a monument. Russell is president of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition, which was formed and is being led by ranchers who have grazing allotments that would be included in the proposed monument area. Merkley said he had opposed a move in Congress for a wilderness unless there was support from the community, but added that it was different for a monument because it is designated by the president. He had shared the concerns expressed to him by county residents to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Merkley said, and she had told him there was a process in place for monument designations and there have been no conversations at her department about the Owyhee Canyonlands. However, he is not able to stick his head in all the cubicles where those conversations may be happening, Merkley said...more

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