National monuments in Marion, Malheur counties unnecessary

Big corporations and special interest groups are lobbying President Obama to use his executive powers to declare new national monuments across the nation.

One company has turned the political campaign into a full-fledged corporate marketing stunt to help sell products. But for those of us who live, work and play on Oregon’s public lands, this issue isn’t about marketing. It’s about our way of life.

In Oregon, these special interest groups are pushing for monuments in Marion and Malheur counties.

The Marion County proposal, known as the Douglas Fir monument, would cover 481,000 acres in the upper Santiam River watershed east of Salem. The Malheur County proposal would cover 2.5 million acres in the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon’s southeast corner, an area bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

As the locals in the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon know, we simply don’t need more government bureaucracy on our public lands. We’re calling on Gov. Kate Brown and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to support Oregonians by giving us and Congress a voice in how our lands are managed.

This view isn’t a partisan one or one that’s divided by urban and rural interest.

In a February poll of 400 likely Oregon voters, 73 percent said that Congress – not the president alone — should vote on new monuments. That view is consistent among Democrats (59 percent), Independents (75 percent) and Republicans (86 percent), and in Multnomah County (69 percent) and the rest of Oregon (74 percent).

The Marion County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing a national monument on the upper Santiam in March. As our resolution pointed out, the monument proposal includes public and private lands and in both cases the land management practices meet or exceed existing local, state and federal regulations.

At the Owyhee Canyonlands, the land, the water and the wildlife enjoy protections from more than multiple layers of government.

In April, I made a trip to Washington, D.C., and shared our resolution with Senators Wyden and Merkley and Rep. Kurt Schrader.

As a five-term state legislator, I learned that an elected leader’s responsibility is to fulfill the wishes of the people who put you in office.

As a county commissioner, I’ve seen first-hand the public’s expectation that they have a voice in how their land is managed. Local governments use a thorough, public review to ensure we’re making land-use decisions in the public interest.

That’s what voters expect from their local governments. Why should they expect anything less from Congress?

But with these two proposed monuments, the president has the power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to cut Congress and our local communities out of this decision.

That threat is real and urgent during the last year of the president’s final term. Since 2009, the president has used that authority to set aside 265 million acres of land and water, more than any other president in U.S. history.

We must continue to remind the president and Congress that America’s public lands belong to all of us – not just special interests – and we all deserve a voice in how it is managed.

Kevin Cameron is Chair of the Board of Commissioners. He previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives representing District 19 for five terms. You may contact him at or 503.588.5212.

As printed in the Statesman Journal, Friday, May 20, 2016.