GOLD BEACH A proposal to turn much of Curry County into a national monument was supported last week by Curry County Commissioner Cheryl Thorp in letters to President Clinton and Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Thorp wrote, As business owners and community leaders, we urge you to proclaim the Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument under the Antiquities Act in order to protect the nationally outstanding scientific and historic values of the wild rivers of Oregons Siskiyou Mountains.
The letters were signed by Cheryl Thorp, commissioner, and were printed on the commissioners office letterhead.
She said this particular letterhead clearly states from the desk of Cheryl Thorp, chair and does not indicate support from the other commissioners.
In fact, Thorp said Monday that she doubts the proposal will ever be discussed in a commissioners meeting.
Thorp said the national monument designation would be good for Currys economy and environment.
The monument would require a restoration and fire-management program, she said. High-wage jobs would be created restoring watersheds and removing small-diameter fuels.
Thorp said the designation would also help the tourist industry. She said in her letter, Newberry Crater National Monument outside Bend saw a 33 percent increase in visitors the first year after designation.
According to an economic impact study by ECONorthwest, she said, A 10 percent increase in visitor spending would bring in $14 million in annual income and create 703 new jobs in gateway communities like Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Gold Beach and Brookings.
This increase in visitors will support our economic transition and will enhance the strategic planning work to develop the tourism industry our communities have been engaged in, she said.
Thorp concluded, Proclamation and protection of this national monument will be a fitting addition to your conservation legacy.
ECONorthwest, a Eugene firm, said in the executive summary of its report, In the short run, approximately 145 jobs and $7 million in income could be lost, primarily in the lumber and wood products sectors.
The report said, Potential impacts on the mining sector would likely be small or even zero.
It continued, The potential economic benefits of the designation could be substantial.
The report said if visitor expenditure increased by 3 percent because of the monument, 210 jobs would be created with more than $4.2 million in income generated.
It said a 5 percent increase would yield more than 350 jobs and $7 million in income. A 10 percent increase would generate more than 700 jobs and $14 million.
The report said the calculations dont include benefits from increased fishing that could result, or the benefits of main
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taining the areas quality of life, which attracts retirees, businesses and families.
Thorp also received a letter from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association thanking her for her open-minded approach to the monument.
The Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument is being promoted by the Siskiyou Project in Cave Junction. It is also supported by the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society and many environmental groups around the state.
Supporters have launched a letter-writing campaign to convince the president to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to proclaim the national monument before his term expires.
Siskiyou Project literature said only .5 percent of Oregon is protected in parks and monuments.
It said the monument would protect the land against threats from logging, mining, roads and invasive weeds and disease.
The 1,048,000-acre monument would stretch from the California border north to within a few miles of Powers.
It would nearly reach Humbug Mountain on the west and would include an expanded Oregon Caves National Monument on the east.
The Siskiyou Project literature said recreational activities will continue, except for restrictions on off-road vehicles. Private land and rights of access would not be affected.
Commercial logging would be banned, reducing the annual timber cut on federal lands by about 21 million board-feet.
The literature said 12 million board feet of that total was used in southwest Oregon mills in 1998, accounting for 2.3 percent of the timber reaching those mills.
The monument proposal is far from a done deal. Josephine County Commissioner Harold Haugen has come out against the idea as bad for the local economy. Timber and mining leaders are not thrilled.
Even supporters admit getting the president to declare the monument before he leaves office is a long shot.