Oregon Caves National Monument
The Oregon Caves National Monument (OCNM) is a 480-acre national monument located in the botanically rich Siskiyou Mountains. The Monument receives over 80,000 visitors annually, and is the second smallest unit of the National Park System.
The National Park Service has long been concerned that the livestock grazing on adjacent Forest Service land threatens the quality of the monument’s drinking water supply. Livestock from the Big Grayback Grazing Allotment frequently invade the Bigelow Lakes Botanical Area, which is the source of Lake Creek, which provides drinking water to Oregon Caves National Monument.
Society has changed the rules on this federal lands livestock operation and in all likelihood it will continue to do so. Permit buyout is acknowledgment of the investment in a grazing operation over the decades as grazing is phased out in the years to come. Due to tremendous ecological and economic benefit, and with the full support of rancher Phil Krouse, we recommend legislation to buy the Big Grayback and Billy Mountain grazing permits.
When the OCNM was established in 1909, the small rectangular boundary was thought to be adequate to protect the cave. Through the years, scientific research and technology has provided new information about cave ecology, how it is influenced by its surface environment and related hydrological processes. The current 480-acre boundary is insufficient to adequately protect this cave system and its unique contributions to local economies and our national heritage. National Park system staff have proposed expansion numerous times, first in 1939, again in 1949 and most recently in 2000.
Tourism constitutes a sustainable, multi-million dollar industry for the communities of the Illinois Valley. Tourism and recreation dollars contribute to numerous sectors of rural communities, from outfitter guides and motels, to gas stations, restaurants and various shops. It is important for federal agencies and elected officials to work with community members to insure that scenic values, educational experiences and opportunities to see nature are both preserved and promoted. These key elements will contribute to the strength and future viability of the rural Josephine County community. If tourists see reasons to stay longer in the Illinois Valley, they will. A larger Oregon Caves National Monument can be a major reason.
In order to protect cave ecology, surface and subsurface hydrology,
forest ecology, viewsheds, the public water supply at the National
Monument and also for the rural economic development of Josephine
County, we recommend a boundary expansion for the OCNM to (1) include
the surface drinking water supply for the over 80,000 visitors
annually; (2) protection additional surface and subsurface natural
resources for current and future generations of Americans; and (3)
provide local rural economic development opportunities.