Is There A Turf Battle Brewing Between National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service Over Oregon Caves NM Expansion?

Is there a turf battle brewing between the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service over above-ground expansion of Oregon Caves National Monument? Photo of forest in the monument by Jess Stryker.

A turf battle could be brewing between the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service over how best to manage a proposed expansion to Oregon Caves National Monument, a move that would increase the monument's footprint almost tenfold by acquiring land within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Bills in both the House and the Senate have been introduced to push through the expansion, which would turn the 480-acre national monument into a 4,550-acre Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

Since the expansion proposal was first heard by a congressional subcommittee back in July, the Park Service has deferred a firm stand on the expansion proposal while it tried to sort out the fine management print with the Forest Service. That message was repeated Tuesday when the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands considered the legislation that would enable the expansion, H.R. 2889.

Potentially contentious issues surround the question of hunting and trapping on the expansion lands, fire management, and whether the River Styx, which flows out of the cave and then is called Cave Creek, should be designated a "recreational river" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Park Service officials don't think such a designation would provide enough protection for the cave resources.

And while H.R. 2889 would provide for hunting on the land, Park Service officials would like to terminate that use five years after the land transfer is made. Forest Service officials, though, seemed to imply during the hearing that they wouldn't mind to see hunting continue.

"We support the requirement in (H.R. 2889) section 9 that fishing, hunting and trapping be permitted in the proposed National Preserve with some limitations," said Lenise Lago, deputy regional forester of the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Region.