Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Good Day for Southern Oregon!

Rough and Ready Creek flows into the Illinois Valley from the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. The watershed was included in the 20-year Mineral Withdrawal.
Today was a good day for southern Oregon and its wild places. Two major victories in the struggle to protect our last wild, intact landscapes were realized today. It is a victory for the land, for our communities and for the future. Today, President Obama designated a nearly 48,000-acre expansion to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, Oregon. The BLM also announced a 20-year Mineral Withdrawal in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area on Baldface Creek and Rough and Ready Creek, west of O'Brien, Oregon. The withdrawal also protects Hunter Creek and the North Fork of the Pistol River in coastal southwestern Oregon. The Mineral Withdrawal totals 95,805 acres on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including some of the region's most pristine streams and fisheries. It also includes 5,216 acres of BLM land in the Medford and Coos Bay Districts. The Mineral Withdrawal protects large swaths of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area from large-scale strip mining and new mineral development.


Both of these wild places are very close to my heart. I learned to love the wildlands of southern Oregon and northern California in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area. I can look back at the extended backpacks of my youth, into Baldface Creek and Rough and Ready Creek, enjoying the pristine waters, unique serpentine geology, diverse botany, stark beauty and lonely canyons. I think of swimming clear, blue, rock-bound pools with only cobra lily, Jeffery pine and summer steelhead, as my company.

Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area will be included in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, protecting some of the region's most interesting low elevation habitats.


I think of full moons on Pilot Rock looking across the Cascade-Siskiyou region. I think of long rambling hikes through the Monument, to the volcanic grandeur of Jenny Creek Falls, the wild, rugged canyons surrounding Horseshoe Ranch, and to the summit of Grizzly Peak with its fire swept rock gardens and majestic old forests. I think of cold, clear winter days on Round Mountain and rain-drenched hikes to Lost Creek Falls. In these places I found myself. In these places I found meaning and peace, like I never knew existed. I emerged from childhood with a sense of place and a sense of responsibility to that place, with an undying urge to defend the wild and immerse myself in its humbling solitude. 

Many years ago (1995), I fought with youthful zeal for the old forests we called "Hoxie," forests targeted by the BLM in the Hoxie Griffin Timber Sale and bitterly opposed by a youthful cadre of activists. We toiled in the snow, blockaded the road, occupied log trucks and screamed out in passion for the earth. The sale and its old-growth forests were cut, but a new movement was born and a personal journey began. The struggle to save "Hoxie" was disappointingly lost. How ironic that at the time no one would listen. Today, the president of the United States acknowledged their values and these same forests we so idealistically fought to protect have now been preserved for posterity in the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. 

Today was a good day. Let us celebrate these important victories and give thanks to those who have worked to secure them — thanks, you know who you are. Then let's move on to protect the next wild place. What next? Anywhere wild!

Ancient black oak on Scotch Creek in the Horseshoe Ranch addition to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

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