by Sen. Doug Whitsett
Nearing the end of his two terms, it is apparent that Barrack Obama’s signature initiatives are failing.
His Affordable Care Act is an insolvent disaster. Obamacare is proven to be both ineffective and unaffordable. Health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles are skyrocketing. At the same time, access to both private health insurance and health care services have sharply declined.
Obama’s energy policies are incoherent, ineffectual and ridiculously expensive. Polls indicate two-thirds of Americans no longer believe man-caused global warming is an eminent threat. They are beginning to recognize the entire phenomenon is motivated by the desire for political and financial control of the nation’s energy industry.
A vast majority of the population appear to fear his confused and dangerous immigration programs. His policies creating ever more porosity along our southern border have led to support of his opponent by a great number of those responsible for guarding that border. Obama’s willing acceptance of preponderantly young male refugees from the Middle East is widely believed to be placing our population at great risk.
The Obama/Kerry nuclear arms deal with Iran amounts to an incomprehensible give-away, of money and control, to a rogue nation. His payment of “ransom” to that nation is the first such act since the American fleet dispatched the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s.
North Korea continues its nuclear testing and its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is openly threatening other nations without any apparent fear of reprisal. The rogue nation may now have the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
Obama’s Middle East foreign policy has led to the rise of ISIS. His empty “line in the sand” threats have made America an international laughing stock and are largely responsible for the creation of the first Muslim caliphate in more than 500 years.
Our nation has not experienced this level of racial tension in nearly 50 years. During the past eight years, it seems he has not wasted any opportunity to deepen that rift.
His economic strategies have resulted in the slowest economic recover witnessed in more than half a century. Inflation-adjusted American household income is significantly less than when Obama took office in 2008. Only the very wealthy are flourishing because they have been provided nearly eight years of virtually unlimited access to cheap government money.
Obama is now desperately in search for some form of legacy. Using the Antiquities Act as his tool, he appears to be focused on building that legacy on the backs of Oregonians. He appears to be trying to see how much of the state of Oregon he can declare as National Monuments by presidential fiat.
His intent is to create three Oregon National Monuments. The combined areas of his proposed Owyhee, Crater Lake and Cascade-Siskiyou National monuments encompass more than four percent of the entire landmass of the state.
The federal government already owns nearly 53 percent of Oregon. His proposed monuments would lock-up an area equivalent to two-thirds of the entire land mass of Klamath County. They would include nearly eight and one half percent of all the Oregon land that is currently owned by the federal government.
His latest effort is a 53,000-acre expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Jackson and Klamath Counties. Ninety-six percent of that 53,000-acre expansion is actually O&C forest lands under the ownership of the Bureau of Land Management. Federal law requires those lands to be managed for multiple use and sustained yield timber harvest for the benefit of the citizens in the counties where the land is located.
Nearly 30 square miles of that productive forestland is located in Klamath County. Monument designation will eliminate about five million board feet of annual timber harvest from those O&C lands just in Klamath County. It will also prohibit livestock grazing on 83 square miles of multiple use public land.
Equally important, monument designation will greatly restrict public access to yet another 53,000 acres of lands that are, in fact, owned by the people. Much of the proposed area is located within the Klamath River watershed upstream from Iron Gate Dam. The monument designation’s addition to the rewilding of the Klamath River is likely not a coincidence.
Last month, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) held a public hearing in Ashland regarding the proposed monument. He apparently gave supporters time to produce signs and colored T-shirts with printed logos. Merkley generally failed to notify potential opponents until the last few days.
Those who were apparently notified late included several local state senators and representatives, the county commissions of the three affected counties, the BLM that manages the O&C lands, and the cattlemen who currently hold grazing permits within the proposed monument.
On short notice, County Commissioners from Klamath, Jackson and Siskiyou Counties testified in categorical opposition. The Association of O&C Counties wrote a letter in adamant opposition. Cattlemen and foresters, who depend on the federally mandated multiple use of the land, testified in opposition.
Rep. Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) and I also submitted a letter of opposition into the record. We were among the Southern Oregon legislators who signed off on a joint letter of opposition to the monument expansion proposal.
Another better publicized public hearing held at the Klamath County Government Center on November 1. The hearing was very well-attended, with the crowd filling two rooms and spilling out into the hallways. People representing both sides of the issue were provided a forum to express their positions. The preponderance of the crowd was reported to be in strong opposition.
Nevertheless, Senators Merkley and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) appear to be 100 percent complicit in actively promoting Obama’s last-ditch “legacy” efforts. They are actively advocating for the monument designation, regardless of the potential severe economic impacts on rural Oregonians. In my opinion, their support amounts to advocating for the exclusion of forest harvest, forest management, wildfire control, livestock grazing and public access, all at the expense of our rural economies.
Please join Representative Whitsett and me in both writing and calling Senators Merkley and Wyden’s offices. Explain to the senators how existing county budgetary struggles are due largely to already existing harmful federal policies that lock up the land and prohibit its productive use. Ask them how and why they could possibly support such a proposal that will further harm the rural Oregon counties that continue to struggle to fund basic public services.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls