Protecting forests in the Klamath-Siskiyou

KS Wild’s work over the past decades has kept tens of thousands of acres of native forests standing

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The Klamath Siskiyou Mountains are home to some of the most spectacular forests in the world. Dense old growth forests, towering pines in oak woodlands, and alpine meadows all mix together in this world-class ecoregion. Our region borders the coastal Redwood forests (with the tallest trees in the world) to the west and the mighty Douglas fir forests of the Cascade Range in the east.

KS Wild focuses on public forests, mostly in the Rogue and Klamath River watersheds. Our trained staff and volunteers monitor public lands management on eight million acres (a forested area larger than the state of Maryland!). These public lands include the Medford and Klamath Falls Bureau of Land Management, and the Klamath, Six Rivers, Shasta-Trinity, and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests. Our goal is to protect the remaining wildlands, watersheds, and wildlife while encouraging restoration of forests that have been damaged by logging, mining, and development.


We are fortunate that the vast forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou continue to provide an immense variety of habitats and recreational opportunities. Much of the private, state, and county forests have been previously logged. Clear-cut logging and forest plantations of Douglas fir are commonly seen when flying above the state's forests.

We are fortunate that the vast forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou continue to provide an immense variety of habitats and recreational opportunities. Much of the private, state, and county forests have been previously logged. Clear-cut logging and forest plantations of Douglas fir are commonly seen when flying above the state's forests.

Damaged by Clearcuts

Widespread clear-cut logging has destroyed old-growth habitat, ruined watersheds, and converted native forests throughout southern Oregon and northern California into biologically sterile tree plantations. Virtually all of the private, state, and county forests in the region have been clearcut and continue to be managed for timber production. The intact native forests that anchor the land and water of the region are found on lands owned by all Americans and managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The good news is that, unlike much of North America, the Klamath-Siskiyou still has large networks of wildlands and intact forests capable of acting as "source populations" for at-risk species. But ongoing old-growth logging and post-fire salvage timber sales continue to remove habitat and connectivity for rare old-growth dependent species.


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Protecting the Best, Restoring the Rest

Forest fires are common in the Klamath-Siskiyou during the warm, dry summer months.

Forest fires are common in the Klamath-Siskiyou during the warm, dry summer months.

Local communities, scientists, conservationists, and some far-sighted federal land managers are working to develop a social consensus to restore and rehabilitate the vast tracts of public lands that have been damaged by prior logging and continuing fire suppression. The idea is to protect our remaining native and ancient forests, safeguard streamside ecosystems, and carefully thin dense second-growth tree farms. The ultimate goal in many of these projects: to reintroduce natural fire to fire-dependent forests. KS Wild is committed to protecting the best of what still remains and promoting restoration forestry where it will do the most good.

Thinning and Fire

Fire has shaped Klamath-Siskiyou forests for tens of thousands of years. The KS forests have a “mixed fire regime,” meaning that they experienced low, moderate and high severity fires depending on the weather, fuels, and other factors. Native Americans also burned forests to encourage the growth of useful plants, such as oaks and beargrass.

Since fire suppression has been effective - about 100 years - small trees that would have burned are now encroaching into many forests and meadows.  Some scientists argue our forests are now vulnerable to uncharacteristic, higher severity wildfire. Habitats like groves of native oaks are vanishing due to encroachment of trees that result from a lack of fire.

Protecting Homes and Lives

Hendrix Fire over Ashland July, 2018

Hendrix Fire over Ashland July, 2018

People are increasingly settling further and further out into the forest-urban inter- face. Fires that were once a natural part of the basin now threaten communities and structures that have popped up in recent decades. In addition to restoring forests, treating high fire hazard areas and creating defensible space around these homes and communities has been a priority of the Oregon Department of Forestry, several municipalities and federal land managers.

Restoring Plantations

Logging has left indelible scars throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou's once bountiful forests. Large scale logging operations began in the early 1900s using railroads. By the 1950s, “clearcut” logging was common across the Pacific Northwest. But finally in the 1990s, growing awareness of forest ecology slowed the pace of clearcutting.  As a result of this legacy, artificial tree “plantations” are widespread on public land in the region.

Recent scientific research shows that carefully thinning tree plantations can help restore these overly dense and unnatural forests. Research also show these plantations burn hotter than more natural forests. Thinning can help improve the habitat for wildlife and accelerate the development of old-growth forests.  Ecologically based thinning projects can also produce timber from small trees that are in excess in the forest, taking pressure away from logging older forests.

Collaboration Can Work

The extreme complexity and variability of this region's forests make decisions about cutting trees very local. KS Wild has been a part of dozens of collaborative efforts focused on ecologically based thinning of small diameter trees in the Klamath-Siskiyou which help make those decisions. We partner with the Forest Service and BLM representatives, as well as sociologists, timber industry interests and others when possible and when forest restoration is driving the management decision, as opposed to timber production. 

Getting Fire Back On The Ground

The ultimate goal of forest management in the Klamath-Siskiyou should be to get fire back on the ground under appropriate conditions. In some areas and weather conditions, wildfire can carry out its historic role in the ecology of forests. While this is not be possible near communities, there are many areas where wildfire use is appropriate under the right weather and fuels conditions. KS Wild generally support the use of prescribed fire to restore forests to more resilient conditions.