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County officials oppose Douglas fir monument proposal

ALBANY — Local officials say they strongly oppose a proposal by environmental groups that would create a Douglas Fir National Monument in western Oregon.

A coalition of environmental groups would like to designate nearly 500,000 acres in Linn and Marion counties as a national monument. That would include most of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land in Linn County, said county commissioner Will Tucker, plus nearly 50,000 acres of private land if it becomes available for purchase.

"This is very scary that this is being proposed," Tucker told the Albany Democrat-Herald. "We're definitely against this. We need to stop it now."

Linn County Commissioners John Lindsey and Roger Nyquist also opposed the idea this week.

But creating the monument wouldn't mean any additional regulations on state or private land unless it was acquired by the federal government, according to conservation lobbyist Andy Kerr. He said a national monument designation would draw tourists to the area.

"They will spend money locally while they are enjoying the forest," he said. "The difference is in branding. If it shows up as a different color on the map, they will think, 'Hey, here's something special,' and come see it."

Kerr, who owns the Larch Company, said the coalition views the draft proposal as a way to start a conversation about conserving the Douglas fir forests for future generations.

In an email, Tucker called the move "the worst case of land grab."

"The old trees they talk of, the 300- to 900-year-old trees are already protected," he wrote. "We do not need more protection, we need better science applied to forest management. We do not need more private land to be taken from private ownership. We need more public access to federal lands and federal land returned to Oregon."

State Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, a Republican, represents much of the area included in the draft proposal.

"I am extremely nervous about this, greatly concerned," she said. "The last thing we need to do is tie up more federal land with regulations."

Willamette National Forest spokeswoman Jude McHugh says forest officials are aware of the proposal but have nothing to add at this time.

She said these kinds of decisions lie in the hands of elected officials.

President Barack Obama can declare national monuments without seeking the approval of Congress through the American Antiquities Act of 1906.

Dave Furtwangler, president of Cascade Timber Consulting, which manages more than 140,000 acres of land intermingled withf the Willamette National Forest. Furtwangler said developing a national monument “Would create a lot of issues for us. We have cost-share roads in that area with the U.S. Forest Service and those roads probably would not be maintained in the way we could make use of them.' Albany Democrat-Herald photo