Doubling down on our Monument

Who ever thought that a president of the United States would bother to attack us? Who are we anyway? Southern Oregon is way out on the margins of wealth and power, much like Puerto Rico. I have a strong suspicion that, if a stray hurricane destroys our infrastructure, we will also be on our own.

So why did the president and his public lands minion Ryan Zinke put our modest Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on their A-list for extermination?

Obviously they are playing to their base, a highly energized minority that distrusts government and wants public resources to become private property. But we also have another base. Our forward-looking base values the natural world that surrounds our settlements — the mountains, rivers, forests and all the wild things that inhabit them. We are beginning to understand the complex biological webs that link all these living things into what scientists call ecosystems. We know that treasures like those that surround us are threatened by human activities like logging, mining, grazing and development.

The wild landscapes of Southern Oregon are beautiful, but our Monument is not just about beauty. These protected lands are part of a global biosphere that supports all living things on our planet, including us. The biosphere feeds us, cycles oxygen into the atmosphere and stabilizes our climate. If we destroy enough of it, we will die.

Not to put too fine a point on it, much is at stake here. Our Monument is a tiny speck on a vast Earth, but it is part of an important global conversation.

So what is our answer to that president and Zinke? I suggest that we show them how much we, as a community, value our Monument. Let’s invest in it.

We (my family, partner and I) are prepared to contribute 50 acres of our property for a facility and programs that will help our neighbors, our nation and the world understand why protecting this resource is such a vital undertaking. The shorthand for such an initiative is ‘visitor center’ but our intention would not be just to entertain visitors. The mission of the enterprise would involve knowledge and communication. Programs could include:

• Interpretative displays and presentations depicting the features, biodiversity and cultural history of the lands protected by the Monument.

• Research to support continued scientific study of the protected resources.

• Educational offerings for students of all ages.

• Artist in residence activities.

Individuals and organizations already involved in managing and supporting our Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument have expressed interest in this concept. It will involve creating a non-profit entity, such as a trust, and will eventually need private underwriting.

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