Kelpie Wilson is executive director of the Siskiyou Regional Education Project, a grassroots network formed to protect the wild forests and rivers of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion in northwest California and southwest Oregon.

Tuesday, 5 Sep 2000

CAVE JUNCTION, Ore.

Well, Grist readers, you have caught me, and the Siskiyou Project, right in the midst of our biggest campaign ever, the quest for a million-acre Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument. Stirring things up is nothing new for us — we’ve been in the thick of the ancient forest struggle since the first blockade on Bald Mountain Road back in 1983. But we’ve really done it this time. The loggers, miners, and anti-government types are furious at us for proposing this “land lockup.” Meanwhile, thousands of citizens across the nation have been pouring letters and faxes into the White House, asking, begging, pleading with the administration to do this one last thing for the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest — create the Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument. (Before I go any further, let me tell you how to add your thoughts to the torrent of comment heading to Washington, D.C.: Go to the Siskiyou Wild Rivers website and send a free, instant fax!)

That’s me in the lower right-hand corner.

This picture of me in the ancient forest was taken in the roadless Canyon Creek watershed, saved from logging by 10,000 Siskiyou Project supporters who sent in comment letters back in 1994. (You see, letter writing really does work!) President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan placed Canyon Creek in what’s called a Late Successional Reserve. That’s “reserve” not “preserve.” It’s protected, but only as long as the Northwest Forest Plan is in place. And who knows how long that will be? On recent campaign swings through Oregon, both George W. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney have indicated that they would “fix” the situation here in the Northwest and allow more logging of public lands. Vice President Al Gore says that his administration would protect all the roadless areas from logging. Either way, nothing is certain and this place needs permanent protection — the kind of permanent protection that a national monument provides.

The wild & scenic Illinois River.

Photo: Barbara Ullian.

The Siskiyou is one of those places that absolutely deserves protection. I am constantly amazed by the beauty of the forests and rivers, and fascinated by the evolutionary history of the place. A 200-million-year-old geology (that’s going back waaay before the extinction of the dinosaurs, even before the time of the first flowering plants!) is the bedrock on which have grown throughout the ages a profusion of rare flowers and trees. No massive glaciers, floods, or volcanic eruptions ever intruded on the steady accumulation of diverse life forms here. Consequently, the Siskiyou National Forest is the most floristically diverse national forest in the U.S. The Siskiyou is part of the greater Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, which has recently been identified as the world’s most diverse temperate-zone coniferous forest. And then there are the rivers. There are more wild and scenic rivers packed into this million acres in southwest Oregon than you’ll find anywhere else outside of Alaska. These are free-flowing rivers with no dams to speak of. These rivers are one of the last holdouts for dwindling Pacific salmon. So, why not a Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument?

Later today, I’m giving a presentation to the county commissioners in an open community forum. Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it went.

In the meantime, please go right now and send your message to the White House in support of Siskiyou Wild Rivers National Monument.