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Monument friends, foes speak out

WHITE CITY - Moderator John Morrison had only one request of the folks packed into Jackson County's first comment session on the year-old 52,947-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

"I want you to walk out of here saying to yourself, 'My mother would have been proud of me tonight,' " he told the standing-room-only crowd of some 200 people.

Aside from a couple of catcalls and derisive hoots, the crowd of mainly monument supporters abided.

— — — — Most neighbors are in favor of monument status

— More than 60 percent of property owners with land — within a mile of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument support the monument as it stands today, — according to a recent survey.

— The survey of the 433 property owners, conducted by — Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, show that 62 percent of the respondents support — the monument's current status, 24 percent would prefer to see it made smaller and 14 percent were — undecided.

— A total of 302 landowners - roughly 70 percent - — responded to the survey.

— The survey, whose results were released during a news — conference Tuesday morning, was prompted by claims from monument opponents that 95 percent of — those directly affected by the monument are against it, said Bruce Sargent, a property owner whose — land abuts the monument.

— A member of the Friends group, Sargent said the survey — meets Interior Secretary Gale Norton's goal of gathering local comments on the monument.

— Opponents' claims that property owners opposed the — monument were wrong, he said.

— They didn't do their homework, he said, — adding that he challenges anyone who disputes the survey results to conduct their own. We — did our homework. — — For the first hour and a half, speaker after speaker at the first of three scheduled public sessions organized by the Jackson County Natural Resources Advisory Committee called for the monument to remain unchanged. If there is a change, it should be enlarged, they said.

"This is the best thing ever to have happened to public lands in the Soda Mountain-Greensprings area," said Dave Willis, chairman of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council.

"Don't tamper with what is good and well thought out," said Donna Webb, whose family has lived in the area for 125 years.

But Illinois Valley resident Jim Nolan, who opposed the creation of a national monument in Josephine County, wondered why so many monument proponents were speaking without giving opponents a chance. Morrison replied that the proponents were the first to sign up.

"The list is stacked - it's very one-sided," Nolan charged.

Finally, Brian Baumgartner, who lives near the monument, had his say. He was representing Frontiers of Freedom-People For the USA.

"This broad-based coalition wants this monument eliminated," he said, adding the monument was improperly created without adequate public input.

Local rancher Mike Dauenhauer, whose family has run cattle in the area for more than 40 years, fears the monument will bring an end to his family's way of life.

"I'm in favor of no monument at all, but political reality is that we will probably have one," he said. "If we must have one, all the resources users I represent would prefer a smaller one."

The meeting was the result of a letter Interior Secretary Gale Norton sent to Jackson County Board of Commission chair Sue Kupillas in March. Norton had asked for local input on how the monument should be managed.

Norton had indicated she felt there had been a lack of local input before the monument was created, an opinion not shared by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt who visited the monument Friday.

Saturday was the first anniversary of the creation of the monument topped by Soda Mountain a dozen miles southeast of Ashland. Former President Bill Clinton created the monument on June 9, 2000.

Located at the merger of the Siskiyou Mountains and the Cascade Mountains, the monument has been cited by scientists for its uniquely rich biological diversity. The World Wildlife Fund has named it one of the 200 most important ecosystems on the globe.

But the monument is also among the 19 created or enlarged by Clinton that the Bush administration is reviewing.

Last month, Norton indefinitely postponed releasing the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District draft plan for managing the Cascade-Siskiyou. The monument is on BLM land.

Despite what some may suggest, the goal is to impartially gather local comments on the monument, Kupillas said.

Following the three meetings, the committee will present a synopsis of the comments to the board along with a recommendation. The commission will then send a letter to Norton with its recommendation.

"We wanted to give the general public an opportunity to come forward," said Kupillas, who did not attend Tuesday's session. At the committee's suggestion, the board is deliberately keeping its distance from the meetings, she said.

The commission doesn't believe there was an adequate opportunity for local input before the monument was created, she said.

"These aren't really public hearings but an opportunity for people to come forward," she added.

The next county meetings will be held Thursday at the Jackson County courthouse auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale, Medford, followed by the final session on June 20 at the Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road, Ashland. Both sessions begin at 7:30 p.m., concluding at 10 p.m.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at