May 07, 2008

Wyden, Smith Move Siskiyou Grazing Buy Out Forward

Washington, DC - Oregon's U.S. Senators today succeeded in pushing forward a bipartisan compromise to buy out cattlemen's grazing leases on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, protecting over 24,000 acres of new wilderness. Smith and Wyden's legislation, which has strong local backing, was unanimously approved by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today.

"At a crossroad that required balance and long-term vision, ranchers and environmentalists came together and found a way to make this land work for all. This fair, commonsense solution will keep the issue out of court, keep ranchers in the saddle and protect our precious natural resources," Smith said.

"Today's action by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is the result of ranchers and environmentalists sitting down together, working out their differences and coming up with a homegrown solution that protects one of the most ecologically diverse areas in North America," said Wyden. "If two groups who have frequently been at odds are able to reach agreement in Oregon, I'm hopeful that our Senate colleagues can join with me and Senator Smith in allowing this to move forward."

For over four years, Senators Smith and Wyden have worked to forge a compromise between Oregon cattle ranchers and conservation groups. Their legislation (S. 2379) facilitates third-party compensation for ranchers who donate their grazing leases in the Monument to the Bureau of Land Management. The compensation would help ranchers secure new grazing land outside the Monument. Once the grazing leases are relinquished, the allotments would be permanently eliminated on the Monument. Twenty-four thousand acres of new wilderness would then be designated within the boundaries of the Monument, permanently protecting it.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is 53,000 acres located southeast of Ashland. The Monument proclamation made by President Clinton in 2000 created an uncertain future for grazing within the Monument's boundaries and the ranchers who depend on the land for their livelihood.