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Support science-based monument expansion

The World Wide Fund For Nature recently released their Living Planet Report 2016. The sobering statistics laid out in the report show the world is on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020. Using the most comprehensive worldwide data, WWF’s Living Planet Index shows that animal populations dropped by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, and predictions show losses will reach 67 percent by 2020.

The report sites habitat loss and degradation (e.g. the destruction of wild areas for farming and logging) as the largest contributor to wildlife decline. Humans have now impacted the majority of Earth’s land area, with just 15.4 per cent included in designated protected areas.

Additionally, joint research recently published in the journal Nature clarified the largest threats to wildlife. The research from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the IUCN assessed near-threatened and threatened species and found that over-exploitation, agricultural activity, urban development, invasion and disease, pollution and ecosystem modification ranked at the top of the list as threats to wildlife. Of the studied species, 72 percent were affected by over-exploitation — in other words, logging, over-hunting, over-fishing, or gathering at rates beyond natural reproduction capability. And 62 percent were threatened by plant and animal agriculture alone.

Yet, the worldwide decline in wildlife species does not mean that we are destined to the same fate in Southern Oregon and Northern California — if we choose to manage our public lands for biodiversity. With the proposed expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, we have an immense opportunity to help safeguard our region from future wildlife and biodiversity decline.

Established in 2000, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is the only national monument specifically designated to protect an area because of its outstanding biological diversity. In 2011 an independent, interdisciplinary group of scientists evaluated the land surrounding the monument and found that an expansion of the boundary is necessary to safeguard the area’s biological values into the future.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument acts as a land bridge at a convergence where plants and animals from distinct ecoregions — Great Basin, Cascade, and Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains — intersect to create unusual plant and animal assemblages and diversity. Some have called the monument area the Noah’s ark of biodiversity, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument the loading dock.

The monument is renowned for species richness and biodiversity; a place where you can find an outstanding 120 butterfly species alone, including the rare Mardon skipper.

The monument is home to over 300 animal species, and in the proposed expansion are watersheds that are home to rare and endemic species such as Tunnel Creek ‘s population of the Oregon spotted frog. In Upper Jenny Creek are two fish that are found nowhere else on earth: the Jenny Creek redband trout and the Jenny Creek sucker.

Expanding the monument will further protect a necessary wildlife corridor into the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains, facilitating migration and movement for Pacific fisher, gray wolves, spotted owls and Roosevelt elk, to name a few.

The monument has become a bastion for ecotourism and an outdoor laboratory and study area for SOU students and scientists. This is why the Ashland and Talent city councils, Chamber of Commerce boards and mayors have endorsed the monument expansion — it’s good for both the economy and ecology of the region.

In August, Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden sent a letter urging the U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel to endorse monument expansion. In October, Merkely and Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor hosted a public hearing in Ashland where they heard overwhelming support for the expansion from 80 percent of the 500 in attendance. Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, spoke in favor of the expansion within ancestral tribal land.

President Obama will ultimately decide the designation of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

If you care about the survival of imperiled animal and plant species in Southern Oregon and Northern California, if you love outdoor recreation, and if you like to get out and view wildflowers and butterflies in a place where they can thrive — and the ecotourism dollars that come along with it — you should support the science-based expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

— Suzie Savoie lives in the Applegate Valley.