County doubts adviser's plan
Jackson County's attorneys say a legal strategy proposed by an anti-monument consultant wouldn't succeed in court.
James Carlson, a Kansas-based consultant who fights national monuments, had hoped to charge Jackson County $60,000 to try and stop a proposed expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, but he went away empty-handed after a Thursday meeting with county commissioners.
"I'm not here because of money. I'm here because I care about local government," Carlson told commissioners.
Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said he paid about $1,500 out of his own pocket to fly in Carlson for the meeting. He said past anti-monument efforts have proven ineffective, and the county needs to try something new.
"I'm tired of getting run over," Breidenthal said.
But Commissioner Rick Dyer said the type of legal arguments put forth by Carlson have not succeeded in court.
"It's a fight that's — in my opinion — futile," Dyer said.
Commissioners left open the possibility they could work with Carlson in the future after they thoroughly review a strategy document he prepared for San Juan County commissioners in Utah. Commissioners there are fighting a proposed Bears Ears National Monument encompassing a mesa, mountains and archaeological sites.
San Juan County is spending $53,000 for a report and lobbying help from Carlson and ranching rights proponent Angus McIntosh, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in late October.
In the report, the consultants make the legal argument that presidents can't unilaterally create or expand national monuments with the stroke of a pen using the Antiquities Act. They say a public input process and lengthy environmental studies are first required under federal laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act, known as NEPA and FLPMA.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton created the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument using powers under the Antiquities Act. Supporters of an expanded monument hope President Barack Obama will roughly double the size of the 66,000-acre monument before leaving office in January.
Carlson said he believes his legal strategy could work because of modifications Congress made to the Antiquities Act in 2014.
But according to a report this year by the Congressional Research Service, requirements for public input and environmental planning under FLPMA and NEPA don't apply to the actions of a president.
Congress continues to propose bills that would rein in a president's powers under the Antiquities Act, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Past actions by Congress limit a president's powers in Wyoming and Alaska.
As part of their fight against a monument expansion, Jackson County commissioners have sent a letter outlining their concerns to Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. They also sent a 178-page transcript of a public hearing they held about the monument, and hundreds of pages of written input from the public.
The package totaled more than 750 pages, said Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.
Following Carlson's advice, county officials plan to broaden the scope of where they send the packet, including to the president's Council on Environmental Quality, which helps develop environmental initiatives.
In their letter, commissioners said an expanded monument would further cut into shared revenue Jackson County receives from logging on federal land — hurting the county's ability to provide important services to residents. They said the Antiquities Act conflicts with the O&C Act, which gives counties rights to that revenue.
Commissioners also cited negative impacts on ranchers and restricted access to fight wildfires and conduct search-and-rescue missions.
Supporters of an expansion say it would further protect the rich biological diversity of the area, improve quality of life, enhance recreation and boost tourism.
Following more of Carlson's advice, commissioners said they will ask Oregon's senators to extend a public comment period about the proposed monument expansion past Nov. 20. No public comment period is required, so there is no legally binding deadline.
Looking toward the future, commissioners said incoming President Donald Trump may prove more sympathetic to the concerns of Western states about environmental restrictions on federal land.