Unpacking BLM's draft management plan for Cascade-Siskiyou Nat'l Monument

"If there are places that make a lot of sense for recreation activities, we want to make sure we're hearing from the public about where those places should be." -- Kyle Sullivan, Public Affairs Specialist for Medford BLM

23 May 2024 | CASCADE-SISKIYOU NATIONAL MONUMENT, OR. -- The Medford BLM recently issued a draft resource management plan (RMP) for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, an area steeped in rich natural history, as well as modern-day controversey. The agency's preferred alternative reduces the acreage of special and extensive recreation management areas (SRMA and ERMA) from about 30,000 acres to just 6,793.

BLM staff member Brian Long helps cut a tree from across the PCT in the Soda Mountain Wilderness

Those areas that fell under the 2016 expansion of the monument were still being governed by "the 2016 Southwest Oregon Management Plan," says BLM public affairs specialist Kyle Sullivan. "They were developed more with an eye of trying to protect those recreation opportunities."

Current recreation management areas

But the monument was expanded in 2016 into some of those O&C lands under the authority of the Antiquities Act. That legal authority was recently bolstered when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from industry groups, and now the BLM is "developing this management plan in the context of biodiversity," Sullivan says.

Recreation management areas under preferred alternative

The SRMAs -- areas where recreation is the predominant focus -- in the preferred alternative include Hyatt Lake and Surevyor Campgrounds. The ERMAs -- where recreation is a commensurate consideration to other resources -- include places like the Pilot Rock Trail, Buck Prairie, and the Table Mountain Snow Play Area. The PCT won't be impacted because it's a National Scenic Trail designated by Congress.

The Lone Pilot Trail will not be included in the draft management plan as a special or extensive recreation area

The preferred alternative adds Pilot Rock Trail as an ERMA, but omits community trails including Boccard Point and Hobart Bluff, as well as the Lone Pilot Trail. Check out this story map issued by the BLM to see for yourself.

Those omissions could have an implication on future funding for those areas. "What if the state office, or Washington office, decides it wants to prioritize funding its SRMAs and ERMAs? Those trails we've worked so hard on could be left out," says the Club's executive director Gabriel Howe. "In a way it feels like passing up on an opportunity to offer profile to these areas."

Sullivan says, "We took a scalpel approach when we designated these areas, so that's why there's a decrease in acreage," and he stresses that the agency "wants feedback from the public on this plan. If there's a location that would be the perfect spot for a trailhead, bathroom, wildlife viewing area, we want to hear about it. We want to be able to consider including it in the plan."

The draft plan would not impact those areas already with facilities not included in the management areas.

SMC volunteers have put thousands of hours of work into the Lone Pilot Trail

When it comes to dispersed camping, the preferred plan maintains the 14-day limit and the BLM always encourages visitors to camp at sites that were already established. Some day use trailheads may close to overnight camping, writes Sullivan in a followup email.

Comments, including ideas of where the BLM should consider future recreation sites like trailhead facilities, picnic areas, vault toilets, wildlife viewing areas, interpretive installations, waysides, camping areas, and trails should be sent to blm_csnm_rmp@blm.gov. The agency is accepting comments until July 5.

"If there are places that make a lot of sense for recreation activites, we want to make sure we're hearing from the public about where those places should be," adds Sullivan.

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