Protect the monument!" shouts "Meadow Woman," an activist who is wearing a 10-ft.-tall body costume of a swamp witch as she heckles a group of flag-waving cowboys on horseback. It's not your typically quiet town meeting here in the old mill community of White City, Ore. Loggers and conservationists, ranchers and artists, small-business owners and hikers, old timers and the newly arrived are packed into an auditorium to discuss the nearby Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a lush, ecologically diverse region of 52,947 acres established last year by President Bill Clinton.
There's trouble in this verdant paradise 80 miles southwest of Crater Lake. The rules protecting Cascade-Siskiyou were put on hold last March, when new Interior Secretary Gale Norton delayed implementing management plans for 16 of 21 monuments that Clinton created or expanded, until matters ranging from boundary adjustments to vehicle use can be scrutinized by homeowners, local officials and the White House.
National monuments are different from national parks like Yellowstone or wilderness areas such as Washington's Mount Rainier, which can be designated only by Congress. Monuments can be designated by the President, who also sets the rules by which they are run. Typically, development is sharply curtailed.
Tonight's meeting is filled with characters. A young earth mother carrying her newborn in a hip sling hands out oatmeal cookies; moments later, a bunch of yahoos heckles the moderator, asking for equal time. Observing from the sidelines is Dave Hill, vice president of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association, representing powerful logging interests like Boise Cascade, which hopes to derail the monument. "We'd just like to narrow the area to the significant features that warrant monument designation," says Hill. Contrasting sharply with both the big-money forestry firms and the well-organized Greens, a ragtag crew of ranchers show up to forecast in plain terms how the monument will destroy their way of life. "This is devastating," says cattleman Mike Dauenhauer, who owns a 12,000-acre spread but wants his cows to continue their subsidized grazing on public lands. Also balking, albeit to a lesser extent, are motorcycle riders and ATV enthusiasts, who would be cut off from their favorite trails and meadows.
The most passionate voices belong to homeowners like Paul Martin, a businessman whose hundred or so acres lie within the monument's outer boundaries. "The only people who want to shrink the boundaries are timber companies and cattle owners," he says. "If you don't believe they ruin the land, imagine what your street would look like after a cow or a logger with a chainsaw spent some time there. I don't understand why they insist on ruining this tiny speck on the map when they have millions of acres nearby they're allowed to destroy."