SALEM, Ore. — A judge has defended former President Barack Obama’s expansion of a national monument in Oregon, ruling against a logging company’s lawsuit that said the expansion deprived it of timber.
Environmental groups hailed Tuesday’s ruling. The case ironically put the Trump administration in the position of defending Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, even after Trump’s former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended shrinking it.
In the lawsuit against President Donald Trump, lawyers for environmental groups sided with U.S. Justice Department lawyers in fighting the logging company. Two similar lawsuits are being heard in federal court in Washington.
For the Trump administration, the unlikely alliance is all about preserving presidential power. For the environmentalists, it is about protecting the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which at the stroke of Obama’s pen in his final days in office in 2017 nearly doubled in size to more than 150 square miles.
Kristen Boyles, attorney with Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based legal group that is one of the defendant-intervenors in the three lawsuits, applauded the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke.
“Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of America’s natural wonders, not a collection of standing logs for a timber company,” Boyles said.
Clarke’s ruling is not final. He referred his report and recommendation to a U.S. district judge, and said any objections are due within 14 days.
John Murphy, owner of Murphy Co. and Murphy Timber Investments LLC, the Oregon timber concern that brought the lawsuit in federal court in Medford, said it would file an objection.
“I am very disappointed in Judge Clarke’s decision,” Murphy said in a telephone interview. “We operate five mills, and we need the wood.”
Murphy noted that other mills have been shutting down because of lumber scarcity and competition from the Southeast, where much of the timber is grown on private land. In contrast, roughly half of the land in Oregon belongs to the federal government.